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Anglers hope to hook big fish and big prizes at the annual Cachuma Fish Derby

SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif. - The annual Cachuma Fish Derby takes place this weekend after a winter that has brought the lake level up to its highest mark in a decade.

The event is coordinated by the Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake, a non-profit educational resource on site.

Each week the public, especially groups of school kids, come to learn about the lake and its environment. This includes examples of all the wildlife that can be seen around the lake and some of the historic Chumash culture.   This educational building is funded through the fish derby fees and year round donations.

It began 28 years ago but the event did not take place for two years during the pandemic and had a slow comeback last year. In all it has taken place 26 times and all the components for a full event are back in place again.

Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake Executive Director Julia Anne McDonald said, "it is truely a family community event some people have been coming for 25 years and now they are bringing their kids or grandkids and they camp here."

Thousands of dollars in prize money is up for grabs along with merchandise for outdoor enthusiasts.

"We have over 5000 in cash prizes and it's $599. for all the five categories for heaviest fish and then $300. for the second heaviest and we have lots of kids categories and youth categories and even an oldest angler award," said McDonald.

   In addition to the cash prizes, there are also certificates for restaurants and retails locations, along with many donated rods and reels from area fishing stores, some that have been with this event since the first year.

The derby starts at 6 a.m. Saturday and concludes at noon on Sunday.  You can even fish at night.     A special weigh station has been set up at the launch ramp near the docks.

Registration will continue through the event.

In the last few months, the county has had four separate deliveries of trout including 4000 pounds this week.

The total is 16,000 pounds of new fish in the lake just in time for the competition.

Besides trout there will be prizes for other fish including crappie, bass, catfish, and carp.

Cachuma is one of the more popular fishing locations on the Central Coast. It is also the primary water supply for the South Coast communities including Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria.

Those who are getting set for the fishing derby say conditions at Cachuma lake have improved tremendously and the debris that came down in the winter storms is now gone. The water temperature is coming up, which is ideal for fishing.

Alex Arnett is from Ventura County and after a morning of fishing he got out and said, "we are now seeing (water temperatures) at high 50's and low 60's and you can really see the bass are more active. Because they are more active they are looking to feed now.   So when they are looking to feed I was throwing out some plastic worms and they were  biting like crazy."

 Many people have already been out fishing. They're checking out their favorite spots, keeping that a secret and getting set for the derby.

"I've never done the derby so this will be the first time doing the derby I am very excited," said Arnett.

For more informational contact: The Neal Taylor Nature Center

The Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake also released this news release:

The Neal Taylor Nature Center is getting ready to host its 26th Annual Fish Derby fundraiser at Cachuma Lake on April 15th & 16th and hoping you can help get the word out.  I’ve attached a press release and several photos from past Fish Derbies.

The photo credits and additional information is in the name field of each image – just click on the name and expand it for all the information.

The Nature Center is very excited about being able to host this annual, fun filled event again this April!  It is a great way for friends and families to get out and enjoying the outdoors and possibly win big – with $5000+ in cash prizes and thousands more in merchandise prizes.  Everyone who participates gets to have fun and at the same time support the Neal Taylor Nature Center, a 501-c3 non-profit.  Let me know if you need any additional information or have questions.  Thank you for your help and hope to see you at this year’s Derby on April 15th & 16th ~ Julie

Neal Taylor  Nature Center

Located within Cachuma Lake Recreation Area – 2265 Hwy. #154, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Phone: (805) 693-0691; Fax: (805) 688-7724; E-mail:; Website:


Trout Derby Hotline: (805) 693-8381                                                                          

Come Join Us for a Great Fishing Event

Nature Center Fish Derby

At Cachuma Lake

Breaking News:

4,000 pounds of Trout to arrive

just in time for the 26th Annual Fish Derby!

12,000 pounds of Trout have already been stocked!

After this final delivery, there will be

16,000 pounds of trout planted at Cachuma Lake this season!

The Neal Taylor Nature Center 26th Annual Fish Derby:

·       At Cachuma Lake

·       April 15th and 16th

·       Rain or Shine

·       $5000.00 plus in cash prizes

·       Thousands more in merchandise prizes

·       Registration:

·        $40.00 -Until 4/13/23

·        $45.00-On-site Fri. 4/14 to Sun. 4/16/23

·        Ages 4-15 years old always - $10.00  

The derby is the annual fundraiser

for the Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization.            

 For more information, call the Trout Derby Hotline at (805) 693-8381.

The Neal Taylor Nature Center’s

26th Annual Fish Derby

26th Annual Fish Derby April 15th and 16th

The Fish Derby is the major fundraiser for The Neal Taylor Nature at Cachuma Lake which is a non-profit organization.

There is good news for all types of anglers! This year’s Fishing Derby will again include prize categories for multiple types of fish such as crappie, bass, catfish, trout, and carp. The prize pool has been increased this year which means everyone has a chance to win great cash prizes, fishing gear, and more!

Anglers of all ages are encouraged to enter the Nature Center’s26th Annual Fish Derby April 15 and 16, 2023. Registration fee for adults is $35.00 -Postmark by April 1, 2023; $40.00 -Postmark after April 1, 2023, and $45.00-On-site Fri. 4/14 to Sun. 4/16/23 and Youth Registration for ages 4 – 15 years old is always $10. Registration forms are available at Cachuma Lake Park entry gate, store, marina, Nature Center, and local businesses. To receive information and a registration form in the mail, leave your name and address on the hotline (805) 693-8381 or visit

Cash prizes amounting to more than $5,000 plus thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise prizes will be awarded in many categories and to anglers of all ages. Certain prizes are designated for children and for teens.

All anglers 16 years and older must have a fishing license which may be purchased at the marina. Free arts and crafts activities will be offered to children Saturday afternoon of Derby weekend at the Nature Center and the Nature Center will also host a special Books & Treasure Sale on Saturday at the Nature Center.

The Derby fishing begins at 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 15 and ends at 12 noon on April 16, 2023. Contestants must fish in Cachuma Lake during the tournament hoursand may fish from shore at any time during the Derby including Saturday night. A flare will be fired at the harbor to start the Derby on Saturday and to end the Derby on Sunday.


Due to the threat of quagga mussels, Cachuma Lake has a 30-day quarantine and inspection of all boats except those with a Cachuma Lake Tag and kayaks/canoes.

Please check for updates to the inspection protocol at


Visit the Neal Taylor Nature Center:

Thursday through Saturday; 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. & Sunday 10 a.m. – 12 noon 

Admission:  Donations Welcomed.

Children's Activities will be on the lawn in front of the Nature Center from 1 - 3 p.m. on Saturday. Donations Welcomed.

Purchase Raffle tickets (open to general public) for valuable prizes starting 12 noon on

Fri. April 14, 2023, and throughout the Fish Derby. The winning tickets will be drawn at the Sunday Awards Program which begins at 1:00 pm at the Fireside Theater. You need not be present to win the raffle.

Books and Treasures Sale: At the Nature Center from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Awards Program at the Fireside Theater on Sunday, April 16th at 1:00 p.m.

To make reservations for cabins, yurts, individual camp sites or full hook-up sites go to: or call (805) 686-5050. For other camping information call (805) 686-5054.

More about the Derby:

The Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake will hold the 26th Annual Fish Derby on April 15th and 16th, 2023

The derby is the major fund-raising event for the Center that was founded by the late Neal Taylor in 1988.

Over $5,000 in cash prizes in various fish categories will be awarded (see Prize schedule below) Registered individuals must be 4 years or older to participate. A registered angler is eligible for door prizes to be given away at the Awards Program on Sunday at 1:00 pm at Fireside Theater. Door prize winners must be present; cash prizes will be mailed if the winner is not present.

Entry fees are:

$40.00 – Until 4/13/23

$45.00-On-site Fri. 4/14 to Sun. 4/16/23

Ages 4-15 years old always - $10.00  

Children’s activities will be organized on the lawn in front of the Nature Center on Saturday from 1 to 3 pm. This event is well attended with children having a great time working on arts and crafts projects. Lots of laughing and fun activities; parents have a great time too!  Admission is free, donations are welcomed.

Folks are encouraged to visit the Nature Center during the children’s activities or at other hours during the weekend. Knowledgeable docents and volunteers will gladly show visitors the exhibits on plants, animals, and other topics. There are many hands-on objects for children to experience.

One and a half hour wildlife cruises on the Lake, led by the Park Naturalist, are $18 for adults; $12 for children 5 to 12 and 62+ years. Reservations required:  Call the Naturalist office at 805-688-4515

A books and treasures sale will be held at the Nature Center Saturday from 10am until 2pm. This is also a fund-raising event for the Nature Center and visitors are encouraged to browse and buy the hundreds of books and other special items.

Visitors may purchase raffle tickets for valuable prizes beginning at noon on Friday, April 14

and continuing through the weekend until Sunday noon. Winning tickets will be drawn at

the Sunday Awards Program, beginning at 1:00 at Fireside Theater. Winners do not need to be


Folks may call the Fish Derby Hotline for up-to-date information (805) 693-8381 or visit us a

For additional information and to receive a registration form in the mail, leave your name and address on the hotline (805) 693-8381 or download a registration from by visiting

Fish Derby Cash Prizes

$599 Heaviest Trout Caught

$300 2nd Heaviest Trout Caught

$599 Heaviest Bass Caught

$300 2nd Heaviest Bass Caught

$599 Heaviest Crappie Caught

$300 2nd Heaviest Crappie Caught

$599 Heaviest Catfish Caught

$300 2nd Heaviest Catfish Caught

$599 Heaviest Carp Caught

$300 2nd Heaviest Carp Caught

$100 THE Neal Taylor “Young Angler Award”

First Catch by an angler 15 years or younger on $50 Sat. and $50 Sun.

$100 Visit the Nature Center Drawing

$100 Heaviest Fish caught by Girl 11-15 yrs.

$50 2nd Heaviest Fish caught by Girl 11-15 yrs.

$25 3rd Heaviest Fish caught by Girl 11-15 yrs.

$100 Heaviest Fish caught by Boy 11-15 yrs.

$50 2nd Heaviest Fish caught by Boy 11-15 yrs.

$25 3rd Heaviest Fish caught by Boy 11-15 yrs.

$50 The Dutch Wilson Prize (the fish caught by the oldest angler)

$25 each to 5 kids 10 yrs. & to first make the leader board

Rod & Reel to top 10 kids 10 yrs. To first make the leader board

About Neal Taylor:

The Nature Center was founded in 1988 when the dream of naturalist, Neal Taylor, became a reality. Neal Taylor began fishing as a child in the Eastern Sierras with his father. As a teenager, Neal began entering fly fishing tournaments and started his own fly-tying business, Taylor Ties Flies. This business grew to have over a dozen employees. Neal fished all over the world and conducted fly fishing instructional camps throughout the Western United States. He taught fly fishing to several celebrities and to three United States Presidents. Neal Taylor is the author of “Fly Fishing” which is available in the Nature Center Gift Shop. Neal also taught various college level courses and was a frequent and popular speaker for business, professional, service, and recreational organizations. Neal served as Naturalist for the Santa Barbara County Parks Department for over 18 years before retiring.

Neal was a favorite of youth groups of all ages and his legendary storytelling skills and humor added vitality and excitement to all the walks and talks he once led. Neal, until his passing in Feb. 2011 continued to be very active as a Nature Center Board member and was a lead participant in the various fishing workshops held at the Nature Center, including the widely attended annual Trout Derby.  With Neal’s passing in Feb. 2011, it was proposed to rename the Cachuma Lake Nature Center in his honor to The Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake.

About The Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake

The Neal Taylor Nature Center (NTNC), a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, is located within Cachuma Recreational Area in a picturesque old ranch house. Developed and operated by a corps of committed volunteers, it offers exhibits on the local valley and mountain environment for all ages, emphasizing hands-on exhibits for children of all ages

Nature Center & Gift Store Hours

Thursday thru Saturday:  10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Admission to the Nature Center: Donations appreciated

(There is a $10.00 County Park Admission Fee per vehicle)

Admission to the Nature Center: Donations appreciated

(More details, photos and video will be added later today.)

For more from John, follow him on Twitter below:

Article Topic Follows: Outdoors
Cachuma Fish Derby
Cachuma Reservoir
community events
Santa Barbara
santa ynez valley

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