By Jake Lee Green
Kern Valley Sun
Many events for the month of March leading into April have been postponed or canceled altogether within the Kern River Valley after a State of Emergency had been given by Governor Gavin Newsom on March 4. One of many events that has been a huge success and has kept the Kern River Valley on the map has been the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce Isabella Lake Fishing Derby. This volunteer-run event has been a primary staple for the businesses of the valley who see profits from the inclusion of anglers and outdoorsmen who come to attend the event. For 31 years locals from the KRV have come together to make the event possible and build upon the successes of their preceding years. Unfortunately, and, understandably, the KRV Chamber of Commerce has decided to postpone the 2020 Annual Isabella Lake Fishing Derby after an even more recent declaration from the governor’s office which came in the form of an executive order.
On March 12, Governor Gavin Newsom made an Executive order furthering state and local government’s response powers to extend treatment options, worker’s safety, provide public health directives, and limit possible transmission from person to person. A part of the limitations and extensions is the prevention of interactivity between people by asking promoters and event organizers to cancel or postpone any gathering that draws crowds of more than 250 people. Thus, in accordance with the suggestions made in the executive order, the fishing derby is postponed.
Preceding the decision to postpone the fishing derby, President of the KRV Chamber of Commerce, Fred Clark, explained he had expected to attend the Bakersfield Outdoor Show, which was slated to begin on March 13. After having set up a booth prior to the event, in hopes of promoting the 2020 Isabella Lake Fishing Derby, the outdoor show was postponed to accommodate the suggestions of the Kern County Department of Public Health and Newsom’s Executive order. Suggestions Chamber President Clark says were reiterated when he inquired about what effect this would have on the fishing derby. Upon reaching Matthew Constantine, Director of Public Health Services for Kern County Public Health, Clark was given a simple yet firm answer to his inquiry; cancel or postpone. Not an easy choice to be made, but, a necessary one says Clark.
In order to avoid responsibility, the KRV Chamber decided to postpone the Isabella Lake Fishing Derby for the time being to accommodate the suggestions given to him by health officials. Clark’s goal is to protect the interests and the people of the valley. “We are not wanting to expose our valley or additional individuals to this virus if we don’t have to,” says Clark. For an event that draws attendance from multiple counties in California and states across the U.S., the responsible decision for Clark was to set the new date for the derby to May 9 through the 11. A decision that has carried additional problems and has the Chamber President a bit concerned.
Hours of volunteer labor and participation have already gone into the 2020 Isabella Lake fishing Derby and the biggest part of the event is the fish. “There is a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of effort that is put into this event and there is a whole boatload of volunteer hours that makes this event so great,” states Clark. Each year the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) truck in fish for the event with the KRV Chamber purchasing additional poundage from other hatcheries that bring in tagged trout. This year the CDFW brought in approximately 2,000 pounds of fish, equating to between eight and ten thousand fish, to supply the Isabella Lake. A minimum of 25 volunteer feeders make their way down to the feeding pens to feed the fish three times a day and have helped the fish to steadily grow since their transfer from tank to pen back in November of 2019. All the hard work is to encourage anglers to participate in the derby and compete for various incentives including boats, money, and glory.
As the season changes into spring from winter it begins a slow increase in the heat of the waters which directly affects the fish. The trout used in the derby require a very specific climate to thrive and be happy. “My major concern is water temperature,” says Clark. Trout do their best in water temperatures that range between the 40s and mid-50s. The Isabella Lake Fishing Derby committee, also comprised of volunteers, has always aimed to release the fish within a week prior to the event. This could put the fish at risk given the new date that has been established for the derby. Clark states that if the environment of the fish begins to detriment them in any way the committee will decide to release the fish into Isabella Lake to protect them from harm. “To me, those fish are like my kids. We raise them to be big and fantastic,” states Clark.
As we go into the warmer days of spring and prepare ourselves for what we hope to be a momentary disruption of our lives for the benefit of all people all we can do is stay positive and appreciate the hard work of volunteers and die-hard anglers who help keep this event going. You can help the KRV Chamber by volunteering or donating to the committee.