The annual Socorro Fishing Derby drew 216 entries to Escondida Lake.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

The City of Socorro’s annual Fishing Derby at Escondida Lake drew 216 entries on Saturday as youngsters competed for prizes and bragging rights for the longest catch of the day.

Despite the beautiful weather, the fishing was a little slow, but organizers kept everyone on their toes with continual prize drawings throughout the morning.

Socorro Valley Bass Club members initially organized the fishing derby, and veteran anglers like Ron Gilworth were on hand to measure the fish.

Gilworth is well known in New Mexico for his promotion of fishing and served six years as the New Mexico B.A.S.S. Federation’s chapter. He has been involved in many aspects of bringing better fishing across the state, and he loves what he has seen since the City of Socorro took over the fishing derby several years ago.

A young boy shows off a bait worm to his friend during the Socorro Fishing Derby Saturday.

Yes, he’s the same Ron Gilworth featured in Field and Stream magazine last year for his work with the Elephant Butte Chamber of Commerce Angler Challenge, an event seeking a state-record smallmouth bass and a $10,000 prize that has anglers flocking to the lake.

“The city brought some new blood and different ideas into the derby, and they continued growing it,” Gilworth said. “I’m pleased that so many people and organizations have stepped in to keep it going.”

While Gilworth and his fellow club members have taken more of a backseat, they were front and center when measuring the fish, which seemed to fall in the 11-12.5 inch range on average.

Bigger fish were stocked for the young anglers to catch, but apparently, they didn’t get the memo about biting, and no amount of calling out “here fishy fishy” seemed to help.

There were many schools of thought regarding why the action wasn’t hotter, but that didn’t stop the enthusiast crowd from spider-webbing the lake with fishing lines that the local ducks navigated. The quacking birds quickly gobbled up any floating dough bait, and all ended up well-fed.

This year’s event was prepared to handle 300 entries and their parents, aunt and uncles, grandparents, and more, who all seemed to be on hand to offer the best fishing advice, most of which seemed to revolve around the importance of keeping the bait in the water.

As it got closer to measuring the trout, the Forget Me Not Veteran’s Park crew served the youngsters a free jumbo hot dog meal.

This year’s sponsors include the City of Socorro, Socorro County, New Mexico Game and Fish, Socorro Bass Club, Presbyterian Socorro General Hospital, Forget Me Not Veteran’s Park, SCOPE Health Council, TDS and Terry Tadano. A special thanks was announced several times to the Socorro Disabled Veterans Chapter 24 for their many past years of helping with the derby.