Trout Derbies on Hiatus

Madison fishing

Trout Derbies on Hiatus

Written by Kathie Portie of the Big Bear Grizzly

Big Bear’s spring outdoor sports calendar was lightened considerably this past week. Two of the Valley’s largest trout tournaments—the May Trout Classic and Fishin’ for 50K—will not take place in 2015.

The Jim Hall Memorial May Trout Classic is the oldest and most successful of the two tournaments, having enjoyed 32 years of existence. The 2015 tourney was slated for May 16-17 until event organizers decided to pull the plug, at least for this year.

In a letter from event organizers, Jason Hall explained the factors that led to the decision. “… we find ourselves in litigation over an incident that occurred in the 2013 May Trout Classic,” Hall wrote. “Our current insurance company, Scottsdale, has still not made a decision as to whether or not they will defend us. They have allowed many deadlines to pass to respond to the court, and we have had to retain our own attorney at the expense of the Trout Classic. This may eventually deplete our startup funds irreparably.”

Hall went on to say that they have been unable to secure new insurance at an affordable price in time for the 2015 event. “The mission of the May Trout Classic has been to maintain Big Bear Lake as a premier trout fishery by planting trophy sized fish each year,” Hall wrote. “We are making every effort to resume this event for 2016.”

“This is not a goodbye, but just so long for a while,” Hall concluded.

According to the Big Bear Events Resource Office, the May Trout Classic contributed between $85,000 and $100,000 to the local economy in 2012 and 2013. According to Rick Bates, Events Resource Office director, Fishin’ for 50K primarily attracted visiting anglers who contributed an estimated $210,000 into the local economy in 2014.

Fishin’ for 50K was scheduled for early June, sponsored by the Big Bear Visitor’s Bureau, formerly known as the Big Bear Lake Resort Association. According to Visitors Bureau spokesman Dan McKernan, the organization is heavily involved with the Amgen Tour of California Big Bear Time Trial in May and the Outdoor Writers Association of California Conference in June. Adding the trout derby responsibilities was proving difficult to manage. But it’s not the only reason the trout derby is going on hiatus, McKernan said.

“We need to take a rest,” McKernan said. “We’re going to freshen it up for 2016. We want to give a fresh new look and new focus for next year.” The plan is to bring it back in 2016, he said.

Local marinas are expected to feel the pinch. Bait, gear, licenses and boat rentals are items visiting anglers often purchase from the local marinas. Leo McCarthy, manager of Pine Knot Landing, said the bulk of his business comes during the boating season rather than from fishing tournaments, but could see that it would affect others such as Big Bear Marina. Attempts to contact other marinas by The Grizzly were unsuccessful as most offices are closed until April.

Anglers may feel the pinch as well. The Big Bear Municipal Water District depends on tournament entry fees to help with fish plants. MWD General Manager Mike Stephenson said it’s probably too late to get anything organized to replace the two lost tourneys for the spring. When asked if the MWD could perhaps host a tourney, Stephenson said it’s something he hopes the MWD board will consider, or at least discuss the options.

Several other tournaments are still on the 2015 calendar including Aaron’s Bass Tournament, the Carp RoundUp and the TroutfesT.

“We still have the October TroutfesT holding on,” Stephenson said.“They are working on their paperwork right now.”

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