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Trout ponds offer 'reel' adventure

There was something fishy going on when 56 kids from the Claremont Unified School District Summer Day Camp hit the Mt. Baldy Trout Pools, hoping to reel ‘em in.

It was just one of many field trips offered through the camp, which this year has taken on the theme “The Great Outdoors.”

As anyone who has been there knows, there’s something transformative about the half-hour drive from Claremont to Baldy. You find yourself surrounded by mountains, a backdrop against which the sky looks a little bluer and the clouds a bit more picturesque.

The 2 pools, which are fed by local springs, are decidedly manmade. Still, when you get to them—surrounded by trees and teeming with some 5,000 rainbow trout as they are—the outdoorsy feeling deepens.

The kids split up into groups of 6 or so, supervised by a teacher, and stationed themselves at the water’s edge. They then proceeded to take turns with fishing poles, 2 to the group, loaded with a globule of bait and featuring a floating cork.

The children, most in the 3rd through 6th grades, were informed if the cork went under water, it meant they’d snagged a fish. Each group also had a couple nets so kids could help a successful angler bring the fish in.

At first the students, who arrived via bush a little after 10 a.m., didn’t have much luck. Nonetheless, teacher Shawn James, who noted that fishing with kids is his favorite thing to do, maintained faith.

“These kids are doing good. They’re exhibiting patience,” he said. “Most kids don’t have the patience—most adults don’t have the patience.”

Before long, one kid nabbed a fish and then another and another. After a requisite scream and a moment of admiration, and a few “ewws” at the sight of the trout wriggling in the net, a member of the Mt. Baldy Trout Pools crew came over with pliers to retrieve the hook from the fish’s mouth. Trout pools owner Jim Bescoby and his crew then proceeded to clean the fish and pack it in ice for the young fisherman to take home.

Like most of his peers enjoying the field trip, 8-year-old Aiken Kilker had never been fishing before. He was a bit breathless as he described the feeling of landing his first fish.

“I saw all these fish jumping out. My campmates helped me reel it in,” he shared. It felt great to be fishing and get a fish.”

Ten-year-old Alex Linden-Ross was happy to be fishing at all, let alone coming home with a “that sucker was this long” story. Earlier in the summer, he went to Ventura and saw people fishing at the port and said, “I would like to do that.”

His moment of triumph at the trout pools was a group effort, with his twin sister Emily helping him pull in his catch with a net.

“I reeled it in and it started flopping,” he described.

“I’ll be like, ‘Mommy, can we have fish for dinner?’” Emily laughed. “And she’ll be like, ‘Maybe later.’”

It’s been a whole summer of firsts for this troop of first-time fishers, notes Kimberly Kenner, coordinator of the CUSD Summer Day Camp. In their quest for close encounters with the great outdoors, the kids have experienced adventures like zip-lining, rock-climbing and archery, to name a few. 

Weekly field trips and swimming jaunts are par for the course for the summer program, which costs $150 and which kids can attend for up to 9 weeks. Considering that many of the children participate in the camp for the whole 9 weeks and stay at the camp from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., it’s a bargain for families and a welcome respite for parents. The kids seem to like it too.

Samuel Williamson, a Chaparral student who turns 8 this August, said he’s finding his first year at camp to be fun. He especially enjoyed a jaunt to Universal Studios the camp took earlier this year.

“I really enjoy it. I really like the field trips!” Samuel exclaimed. 

Mr. Bescoby, who has helped run the Mt. Baldy Trout Pools for 40 years, and whose family has owned the pools for 60 years, was happy to see another group of fisher-folk come away with the catch of the day and happy smiles.

The pools, which are open in the summer on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., draw lots of visitors, particularly during the winter when the sides of Baldy Road are bumper-to-bumper with parked cars. On the average weekend, they go through 500 fish, he notes. Guests bring their own poles, paying a fee of $1, or rent poles for $2. They then pay for each trout they catch, depending on size, with most ranging from $6 to $18.

Mr. Bescoby doesn’t fish much himself. “It’s like owning the donut shop. You don’t eat the donuts.” But he loves to see people fish, especially kids.

“When they get their first bite, they just start screaming,” he said.

The trout pools are located at 6945 Mt. Baldy Road in Mt. Baldy. For information, call (909) 982-4286 or visit www.mtbaldytroutpools.com

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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