SMUD trout fishing derby at Rancho Seco is fun for all

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Twice a year, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District sponsors a trout fishing derby at Rancho Seco Lake, 25 miles south of Sacramento.

The lake is small by any standards. The park only covers 400 acres with the lake comprising 160 acres. And yet, the two-day event on Saturday and Sunday, April 6-7, should draw a couple thousand anglers casting lines from every vantage point.

Trout regularly are brought in from the local hatchery and planted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. In anticipation of this event, a large amount of catchable sizes and some trophy-size rainbows will be planted. In the past, there were 2,000 pounds of everyday “half-pounders” and an additional 500 pounds of trout up to five and six pounds.

While most anglers will only come for the day, there are camping facilities, including 18 RV and 12 tent sites, available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can well bet every site will be filled, so the strong suggestion is to arrive early. Each RV site has a fire pit, barbecue, picnic table, water supply and electrical hookups.

There will be three primary methods of fishing this small waterway: Casting from the shoreline is highly popular and successful. Some people want to get away from the general public, and that means getting on the water. A float tube is one of the easiest ways, along with a variety of crafts such as a kayak or canoe.

While boats are allowed, they may only be propelled by electric motors, and there is a launch ramp available. Oars and paddles, of course, are allowed. During the summer months, windsurfing and pedal boat rentals are offered.

Admission to the park is $5 per vehicle and $4 for seniors. A $5 entry fee will be charged for anyone interested in competing in the derby.

Any angler 16 years of age and older must possess a valid fishing license.

The derby will run from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, rain or shine. Rules are kept simple, and every prize, of which there are many, is expected to be claimed. The heaviest trout in each category — adult, youth and kids — will take the top prize. To be eligible for any prize, you must purchase your derby ticket before you catch the fish, and you’re eligible for only one prize. While the winners will be known by the end of the day Sunday, the prizes will be mailed to the lucky recipients.

The adult group is for those 17 and older, the youth group for those 11-16 and the kids’ group for those 10 and under. Prizes include:

Adult: There are 14 chances to win. The winner will take home a $100 bill while 10th-14th place will win $20, along with a one-day pass that can be used any time in the future.

Youth: Five chances to win. The winner gets a $50 bill while fifth place gets $10 and a one-day pass.

Kids: Five chances to win. The winner claims $35 while fifth place will get $15.

Contact George deVilbiss at