In 2022, the Socorro Fishing Derby had a great turnout, despite the previous year’s hiatus. The 2023 derby will be Saturday, April 1.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain photos

The day for kids to catch a big one and win a prize is fast approaching. Socorro’s annual Community Fishing Derby is coming up Saturday, April 1, at Escondida Lake.

“The derby is a partnership of individuals, community organizations, businesses and governmental agencies for the benefit of our community, especially our youth,” said Cheyenne Cortez, Assistant Director of Socorro Tourism.

She said there are three primary goals for the fishing day:

  • To teach youth about sportsmanship, ethics and fishing techniques.
  • To provide a positive, fun and safe activity for youth that they will continue to enjoy for years.
  • To provide a recreational activity for youth to spend with their families or other responsible adults.

Registration will be from 7-8 a.m.

The fishing competition begins at 8 a.m. and ends at noon.

All young anglers – ages 3 through 12 – must be registered for the derby to receive free jars of bait, lunch and raffle prizes.

First, second and third prizes will be awarded in each division for the biggest fish.

Age groups are 3-4, 5-7, and 8-12.

“Twelve-year-olds do need a have a valid New Mexico fishing license,” Cortez said. “The Junior Annual Fishing License can be purchased for $5 through the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish.”

The annual Fishing Derby at Escondida Lake is a chance for kids to get outside and learn a skill in a family-friendly competition.

The lake will be well stocked.

“We submit a stocking request to Game & Fish about a month before the fishing derby, and then they actually stock a week before the event,” Cortez said. “We request trout every year.”

The Socorro Valley Bass Club members will be measuring the length of each angler’s longest trout.

“They will also be helping the younger ones with things like removing the hook from a fish,” she said. “They do a lot of our groundwork the day of.”

Prizes include bicycles for the first-place winners in each category, “and then we have other prizes we’ll be raffling off,” she said. “A ton of fishing gear, like fishing rods.”

A free lunch of a hot dog, chips, and water will be provided for all registered participating young anglers courtesy of the Socorro chapter of Disabled American Veterans Chapter #24 and other volunteers.

Coffee and lunch will be sold to adults, with proceeds going toward next year’s derby prizes.

“We try to prepare for about 300 participants,” she said. “But then, of course, taking parents with children into consideration, I’d say, ballpark, we’d probably have at least six-to-eight hundred people around the lake.”

Everyone is expected to supply their fishing gear.

“However, when we do registration, we’re going to have a table full of either bait, stringer or hooks, things like that, and they can pick one item from the table,” she said. “Just anything that they might need that they didn’t bring. Just a little gift from us to them. Just for registering.”

Adults will have to wait until after noon to start fishing and must be in possession of a valid fishing license.

Licenses can be purchased online, by telephone, or at license vendors. The license plus fee costs $5 at any licensing agent, plus the $1 fee. No habitat stamp is required for Escondida Lake.

Licenses and stamps can be purchased online: Licenses and stamps also may be purchased at local vendors or any Game & Fish office.

“The fishing derby is a great way to teach the young people in your life about sportsmanship and fishing techniques in a fun and safe atmosphere,” said Cortez. “It’s part of our goal to put on events for children to be a part of that don’t cost a thing for them or their family. Just something that gets the kids out and active, and helps keep our community involved.”

For more information or for early entry, contact the Socorro Tourism Office at 575-835-8927.

Escondida Lake is one and a half miles off Interstate 25, exit 152. Just follow the signs to the fishin’ hole.

As the song goes:

You get the line and I’ll get the pole

And we’ll go fishing in the crawdad hole

The Fishing Derby is sponsored by the City of Socorro, the County of Socorro, Socorro Bass Club, DAV, and New Mexico Game & Fish.