Tanner Holt's 7.68-lb. trout barely edged out his girlfriend's 7.66-pounder.
  • Tanner Holt's 7.68-lb. trout barely edged out his girlfriend's 7.66-pounder.
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The City of Escondido’s 39th annual Trout Derby at Dixon Lake attracted hundreds of anglers from around Southern California on December 1–3. Even without the planting of huge Nebraska tailwalkers at this year’s opener, stringers were not deprived of well-sized trout.

As predicted by lake rangers, the weight of each fish from the city’s new hatchery supplier was much less than the tailwalkers stocked in the past three years, but the poundage planted was the same. Organizers saw more full stringers rather than just one or two huge fish.

“I saw a lot more caught by kids,” said Ron Parker, one of the volunteer weighmasters from Senior Anglers of Escondido.

The leader board changed several times throughout each day, with lots of fish coming in the 4-to-6-pound range. But in the morning of the last day, December 3, using a Glo-colored Mousetail, Katelyn Woods of Wildomar posted a 7.66 pounder, surpassing any others by at least a half-pound. Weighmasters thought Wood’s fish would hold first place throughout the last day.

Just five minutes before the derby’s close, Woods’s boyfriend, Tanner Holt, also of Wildomar, came running in with a 7.68 pounder, knocking Woods off the board. Hoots and hollers went up from the small group that gathered around the weigh-in.

“He taught me everything I know,” said Woods. “If I had to lose, I’m glad it was to him.” The couple, with several of their friends, was camping at the lake’s campground and had been fishing the derby all weekend long.

Holt caught his $150 grand-prize winner on a Power Worm while anchored in Trout Cove. “It feels great,” he said after sensing no animosity from his girlfriend.

Other category winners were Carmel Valley’s Andrew Heiati. The High Bluff Academy high-school junior won the youth category with a 6.18-pounder. “I like to fish all the tournaments I can,” said the young angler, mostly chasing offshore tuna. “But I like using a trout rig [for freshwater]. Even for bass I’ll always use my trout setup.”

Seventy-year old Vince Catalontto of Escondido took top honors in the 60+ Senior Category with a 5.96-pound trout. Escondido’s Mike Rockefeller may not want to brag about his award: the smallest fish, at .46 of a pound.

Gifts cards of $25 for Big 5 or Dick’s Sporting Goods were given away if an angler caught one of 50-tagged fish. Only 13 were landed. The city-sponsored event also gave away gifts cards for runner-up categories and one-day contests. Entry in the derby was free with a paid Dixon fishing permit.

The city had planted 10,000 pounds of trout in the few weeks prior to the derby, and an additional 2000 pounds on December 1. The regular stocking schedule of 1500 pounds approximately every other week continues through March 28th. One final plant of 4500 pounds will take place just prior to the annual end-of-season Kiwanis Trout Derby on April 21 and 22.

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