With the Southern Inyo Early Opener Trout Derby in the books, anglers’ attention has now turned to the Eastern Sierra’s other major pre-season fishing tradition: The Blake Jones Trout Derby.
Named for a beloved longtime local resident and angling promoter, the annual derby returns this Saturday to Pleasant Valley Reservoir, where the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau gives fishermen yet another chance to compete for cash, prizes and bragging rights – or simply gather the family to cast a line in prime Eastern Sierra waters – well in advance of the regular fishing season.
Registration for the 44th annual derby begins at 6 a.m. Saturday at the southern end of Pleasant Valley Reservoir.
Each year, the Blake Jones proves the busiest single day of fishing in the state, second only to Opening Day, and organizers said they have no reason to believe this weekend’s 44th annual will be an exception.
Event Organizer April Leeson said the Chamber hopes to see at least 1,100 participants at this year’s event.
“It’s hard to tell how many contestants we had last year because it was cold and windy, but this weekend the weather’s looking pretty good. The forecast is for high 50s and it’s supposed to be calm, so that’s what we’re hoping for,” Leeson said.
Anglers participating in the Blake Jones Trout Derby are invited to fish waters at Pleasant Valley Reservoir and areas of the Owens River from Laws to the Gorge, except the catch and release wild trout area.
Local and other supporting merchants have donated hundreds of prizes in the form of bait tackle, float tubes, coolers, gift certificates and more for winners of the derby’s many contests.
The Chamber will be handing out prizes in a number of categories, including the popular Blind Bogey. Prior to the derby, the Chamber picks a random weight out of a hat, and the angler whose fish weighs in closest to the blind, wins. This year, the Chamber will be giving out a grand prize for the angler closest to the blind, but there are 19 additional runner-up prizes, so the 20 anglers closest to the mystery weight will go home winners.
The Chamber also has prizes set aside for the angler who travels farthest to the derby, early registration (prior to March 1) and biggest stringer in both adult and children’s classes.
Prizes for the annual event are donated by a variety of local businesses and residents, who, Leeson said, make the early derby possible each year through their generous support.
There is also an opportunity to go home with cash thanks to the ever-popular 50/50 drawing.
New this year is a raffle for a brand new Dave Sadden Sky Komish Sunrise boat donated by North Fork Outfitters and Erik Schat’s Bakkery in Bishop.
Tickets for the boat raffle are $5 apiece or five for $20.
As always, the Chamber will provide a shuttle to take anglers to their favorite stretch of bank along the reservoir.
New this year will be a Dial-A-Ride shuttle from the Chamber of Commerce on Main Street in Bishop to the reservoir. The shuttle will go from the Chamber to the derby at 8:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. with return trips at 8:45 a.m. and 4 p.m. The cost is $3.50 per person.
Registration for the Blake Jones Trout Derby is $10 for adults and $5 for children.
Final weigh-in is at 3 p.m. with the awards ceremony taking place around 4.
For more information, call the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce at (760) 8405.