The catches were big at Lake Siskiyou's Youth Fishing Day

Shareen Strauss
During Saturday's Free Youth Fishing Day, 7 year-old Colter Baney caught the first trophy size trout of the day. “I thought, ‘wow’ even before I saw him,” said Colter. “It was hard to bring him in. It is the biggest trout I have ever seen or caught. I think he’ll feed 9 or 10 people.”

The north shore of Lake Siskiyou was lined with young anglers Saturday morning, all vying to catch a trophy size rainbow trout.

The Mt. Shasta Rotary, in partnership with California Department of Fish and Wildlife, held a free youth fishing day at Lake Siskiyou after releasing 950 trophy-size trout into the lake earlier in the week. Children under the age of 15 fished for free, while those ages 16 and older needed a current California fishing license.

Through a Rotary project led by Tom Stienstra, triploid trout (trout that cannot breed, and in turn, grow faster) were raised in pens in the lake from December to May. At the time of their release, the fish ranged from three to seven pounds and were 16 to 27 inches in length.

A busload of children from the Boys and Girls Club of the Siskiyous joined Boy Scout Troop #97 along with other families that were ready to fish.

The young fishermen received everything they needed to catch a big one, including help and lessons from Siskiyou Fly Fishers club volunteers.

Children were catching fish right off the bat, but the first trophy-size trout was caught by 7 year-old Colter Baney of Mount Shasta.

“I thought, ‘wow’ even before I saw him,” said Colter, who was at the event with the Boys and Girls Club. “It was hard to bring him in. It is the biggest trout I have ever seen or caught. I think he’ll feed nine or 10 people.”

Syris Gibson of Weed, also a member of the Boys and Girls Club, was the second to catch a trophy-size fish.

“Rule one of the Boys and Girls Club is to have fun and I am,” 13 year-old Syris said. “It was hard to catch him. It took me about five minutes to get him in and a while longer to get him out of the water. My arms got tired trying to hold him up. He is the biggest trout I have ever caught. I was using a worm.”

Jacob Cavitt, age 8, came to Lake Siskiyou with his family from Auburn. He caught a five and a half pound, 24 inch trout on a Castmaster all by himself.

Carter Hawkins, age 10, used power bait and while he didn’t catch a trophy fish, he was happy with the fish he did catch.

“This was totally worth the drive up from Holister,” said his mother, Lexie Hawkins. “It is absolutely beautiful here.”

“This shows a sense of community unique to Mount Shasta and Siskiyou County,” said Stienstra, an Emmy award winning outdoor sports writer. “This is why we’re here. This is the greatest place on earth. If you get a child involved, it affects the entire family and often their friends too. You’ve transformed an experience through one child to the entire family. If you ask a kid what is the best time they had, they won’t say that it was with their cell phones.”

Stienstra wants to raise funds to get all new fishing equipment to continue the fishing day as an annual event. He donated 95 copies of his latest book, “Moon California Camping” to the Boys and Girls Club and the Boys Scouts.

“What makes it intriguing is that fishing is a mystery sport,” Stienstra said. “You never know. The lake temperature was 61 degrees two weeks ago during that hot spell, then it went to 44 degrees on Thursday, which can put a shock on the fish. It is starting to warm up again and that will put this lake on fire (for good fishing).”

The Department of Fish and Wildlife came prepared, bringing craft projects and hosting a scavenger hunt for children when their attention span waned. As the day warmed kids waded into the water to play.

“I’m having more fun than the kids, though I’ve never untangled more lines in my life,” said Rotarian Mark Foster.

Will Keller, president of the Siskiyou Fly Fishers, said many of the children who participated had never fished before

“We will be needing more volunteers for next year as this event will grow bigger. The Fly Fishers sponsors two children each year to go to fishing camp.”

He said the group is on Facebook and can be reached by calling (916) 847-3970 for more information about the camp, which encourages youth to become fisherman and enjoy nature.

“This is a great turnout,” said Rotarian Audra Beylik. “The kids saw California Fish and Wildlife releasing fish, saw an osprey catching a fish, and they caught fish themselves. Families saw this event on Facebook and came up here just for this. Our Rotary message is that we want to see families enjoying the outdoors together away from their cell phones and screens.”