For the second year in a row, a special-tagged trout worth $10,000 was caught Sunday, the last day of the 31st Annual Bass Lake Fishing Derby.
“We had a great derby,” said Michelle Miller, chairperson of the derby that is sponsored by the Bass Lake Chamber of Commerce. “Of course the highlight of the weekend was Jerry Vang of Fresno catching one of the two $10, 000.”
Vang, 21, was fly fishing at Brown’s Ditch at the east end of the lake near the dam, at about 3 p.m. Sunday when he caught fish No. 14447.
“When I reeled it in, it fell off the hook as soon as it hit land and tried to wiggle back into the water,” Vang said. “My 26-year-old brother brother Jensen was able to grab the fish before it got back into the water.”
“Can you imagine — talk about the one that almost got away,” Miller said.
Vang knew excatly what he would do with his winnings.
“I’m going to buy a car — my first car. I have a job, but no car.”
This was Vang’s third year to enter the derby, catching one $20 trout each of the two previous events.
In addition to his brother, Vang was fishing with two friends. The foursome caught a total of 10 tagged fish during the derby — in additon to the “big” one, the fishing partners caught seven $20 fish and two $100 fish.
Vang, a sous chief at Wayside Noodles in Fig Garden Village, is an avid fisherman, who oftern drives 2 1/2 hours to San Francisco to fish and recently drove four hours to Santa Barbara to get his line in the Pacific Ocean.
“Wherever there is water and fish, you can usually find me there,” Vang said.
A total of 855 fisherman particpated in the derby, catching 260 tagged fish with the chamber paying out $19,180 in prize money. Last year, a $10,000 fish was caught by Pete Antonino, 84, of Fresno.
A $25,000 fish was caught during the derby in 2007 by Terry Rickert of Oakhurst and a $10,000 fish was landed in 1993.
“The weather couldn’t have been better for this year’s derby,” Miller said. “It was fun to see so many happy families and long time fishing friends. Many fisherman were catching multiple tagged fish and many non-tagged fish were caught during the two days, including kokanee salmon.”