The Fish Sniffer - Fishing In The City Brings Trout And Cats To Urban Anglers
Fishing In The City Brings Trout And Cats To Urban Anglers

Written By: Dan Bacher, February 15, 2014
Species: Trout Catfish
Location: Sacramento River- Middle,

Fishing In The City Brings Trout And Cats To Urban Anglers
Fishing In The City Brings Trout And Cats To Urban Anglers Fishing In The City Brings Trout And Cats To Urban Anglers
Fishing In The City Brings Trout And Cats To Urban Anglers

The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s “Fishing in the City” program, now in its twenty-first year, is the best project that the Department has ever initiated, in my opinion.

Developed to improve angling opportunities for California’s growing urban population, the program has been offering fishing clinics, free rod and reel rentals and stocking rainbow trout and channel catfish ponds in close to home ponds in the Sacramento and Stockton metropolitan areas for over 2 decades. The program also serves the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles metropolitan areas.

When introduced to Sacramento and Southern California in 1993, it was welcomed by novices and veteran anglers alike. Up until that time, young anglers generally were introduced to fishing by the parents and guardians, grandparents, other relatives and friends. If you didn’t have parents or friends that were experienced anglers, you were often out of luck.

For example, when I was a kid growing up in Sacramento, I had to figure out how to fish in local waters pretty much on my own. I would often travel to the American River by bike to fish for shad, steelhead and striped bass.

Some of the adults I fished besides were rude and unhelpful – and often resisted anybody else fishing anywhere near “their spot.” Rather than encouraging young anglers, some of these old school “anglers” looked at kids as obstacles in their way and competitors, rather than as fellow anglers to help teach and share the joys of fishing with.

Nowadays, young and novice anglers have good opportunities to learn about fishing from angling experts in clinics, seminars and workshops provided by government agencies, fishing groups and bait and tackle stores, but no program equals “Fishing in the City.”

When I attended the first “Fishing in the City” event at South Side Park in Sacramento in the summer of 1993, I was impressed by the then new program and its mission of actually encouraging young anglers to fish as part of enjoying and appreciating the outdoors and practicing conservation.

Joe Ferreira, the program’s always cheerful and affable coordinator, was there with parks district officials, former City Councilman Jimmy Yee and a bunch of kids and some adults after the first plant of channel catfish in the lakes.

Since that inaugural event, I have attended over 50 of the program’s events, as well as fishing in a few of them. This program is one that actually increases angling opportunities, rather decreasing them or taking them away as California’s population continues to grow: what a concept.

“Fishing in the City” gives city dwellers an opportunity to both learn how to fish and to fish close to home. The CDFW and local sponsors stock ponds in urban areas with rainbow trout in the winter and catfish during the summer when the water temperatures are too high to plant rainbow trout.

The Department explains the reason behind the program on its website. “Consistent with trends across the country, California’s urban anglers identified a lack of free time as the primary reason why they don’t fish more or stopped altogether,” the agency states.

“Many city and regional park lakes, ponds, and streams were all but forgotten as potential fishing sites and many lacked adequate facilities, staff, or fish to sustain a fishing program. Some suffered from non-source-point pollution and habitat degradation. All were surrounded by communities ready to provide the support necessary to create fishing in the city,” the CDFW explains.

My latest visit to witness the program in action was in Hagan Park in Rancho Cordova on Saturday, February 1. Over 100 anglers were there – and I saw many anglers hooking trout on a variety of offerings while I was there.

I got there just as Ferreira and Don Paganelli of the CDFW were getting ready to leave. “Over 3,000 pounds of trout from Mount Lassen Fish Farm were planted yesterday, along with 1,000 pounds in Elk Grove Park,” Ferreira revealed. “I saw a number of people that caught their five fish limits this morning.”

Because of the heavy plant and the stable, relatively warm weather, the anglers experienced top-notch fishing while tossing out PowerBait, Power Eggs, Kastmasters, nightcrawlers and flies.

The successful anglers included Kayla and Karla Vang of Sacramento, who landed 10 rainbows while using Pistol Pete flies under floats. Cha Vang of Rancho Cordova, Chanda Vang and Isaiah Chandavang also caught good numbers of trout while using Power Bait and other offerings.

In spite of Department cutbacks and the increasing costs of planting fish, the program has endured. Whereas the program used to stock a number of ponds in the Sacramento area with fish every week, the plants have become less frequent, but more fish are put in during each plant.

“We like to put in a good amount of fish in like we did today so even beginners can catch fish,” said Ferreira. “A number of kids caught their first ever fish today.”

The next event is the Oak Grove Park Derby scheduled in Stockton on Saturday, March 1, from 6 am to 12:30 pm. The event is sponsored by the san Joaquin County Parks and Recreation Department and the Delta Flyfishers. The park is located at I5 & Eight Mile Road, north of Stockton. For more information, call 209-331-2050.

On the same day, the Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District will sponsor their Annual Fishing Derby, in cooperation with Fishing in the City. Howe Park Pond will be freshly stocked with trout. Prizes will be awarded for the longest and fattest fish. The morning session will be from 8:00 to 10:00 am (sign-in begins at 7:30 am), while the afternoon session will run from10:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Space is limited, so anglers should register early. Pre-registration is $4 per person and $18 per household. Same-day registration is $5 per person and $20 per household. Youth ages 15 and under enter area first. Contact Jaden at or 916-927-3802 x125.

During the summer, channel catfish will also be stocked in Sacramento and Stockton area park ponds, including Oak Grove Park in Stockton.

Ferreira says the success of the program is demonstrated by the fact that many anglers who fish for a variety of species grew up as children in the program.

“I meet a lot of adult anglers in the Sacramento area who started out by coming to our clinics,” he said. “Repetition is how one learns fishing skills.”

In covering Fishing in the City events, I’ve seen some amazing catches by anglers. I’ve seen crappie, huge redear sunfish, brook trout and even brown trout caught at Elk Grove Park.

However, none of the catches I’ve witnessed touches the 22 lb. white catfish that James Robinson of Sacramento pulled out of William Land Park Pond in March 1994. That fish is not only the state record, but also a world record for the species, according to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

You can find out the schedule for clinics and lakes being planted by calling Joe Ferreira at (916) 358-2872. Some city parks will also be planted with trout by American River Fish Hatchery; call 916-351-0832.

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