About 120 kids showed up at Barney Schwartz Park for the ninth annual tournament

PASO ROBLES — About 120 youth showed up at Barney Schwartz Park for the ninth annual Fishing Derby on Saturday, April 9. The derby is hosted by the Paso Robles Police Activities League (PAL), the Atascadero Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Nick Romano, the Black Brandt Group, and the Avenales Sportsman’s Club.

Since 1994, the Paso Robles Police Department (PRPD) has been involved with PAL, a statewide nonprofit organization. After a two-year break due to COVID, they are back working to provide youth-oriented programs for the community.

The fishing derby started bright and early at 8 a.m. on Saturday. PAL was able to provide close to 30 fishing poles and tackle boxes to those who did not have their own gear. This was a good sign to Tony Ruiz, Police Activities League commissioner. According to Ruiz, one of PAL’s goals is to bring kids and their families outdoors — and possibly pick up a new hobby. 

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On the day before the derby, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife fills the pond with trout. The Atascadero Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and PRPD Community Volunteer Patrol were available to assist anyone new to the fishing game. Anglers were welcome to catch and release or keep their catches of the day.

At the end of the day, around noon, lunch was provided for all the participating kids, along with raffle prizes.

Alexis, an experienced 8-year-old fisherman, won the first fishing pole during the raffle.

Alexis (8) poses with the fishing pole she won at the PRPD Activities League Fishing Derby raffle. Photo by Camille DeVaul

“I won one [fishing pole] before, but you can never have too many,” she said.

Ruiz notes that one of the reasons the PRPD chooses fishing as an activity is to teach the kids patience. 

Alexis, who is also looking forward to showing cattle in 4-H, soon agreed patience is a huge part of fishing.

“I try to just lay down on my jacket and wait — let my bobber do it,” she said.

Although Alexis did not catch any fish that day, she said she had a lot of fun, and her favorite part of the day was “sitting and watching the ducks because they go everywhere.”

The most popular program offered by the Paso Robles PAL chapter is the Jr. Giants Baseball League. The Giants League is a non-competitive league to teach kids the basics of baseball and softball and the life lessons that go with the game. Unfortunately, due to COVID, the local PAL chapter had to press pause on activities. But, they look forward to returning the Giants League in person this year, with sign-ups to begin this week. 

Some young anglers are shown at the PRPD Fishing Derby with their raffle prizes. Photo By Camille DeVaul