Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez hosted the inaugural Lake Cahuilla Veterans Fishing Derby on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
"Just the showing of people today was amazing, we had over 300 people registered and then there were many others that came out just to support our veterans," said Sup. Perez.
Both kids and adults competed separately for prizes ranging from Palm Springs Aerial Tramway tickets to restaurant gift cards and golfing passes.
"There’s 3 different categories. There is catfish, there’s trout and what they consider other, which would be your bass and carp. Each one of those categories, the longest fish wins that category in both adult and youth 16 and under," said Desert Valley Outdoors founder, Julian Rangel.
The event was to honor veterans, who participated for free, but also to give people the chance to visit the lake, according to Supervisor Perez. The lake has been in jeopardy of shutting down for recreational use since Riverside County's 50-year lease expired in March. Earlier this year the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to extend the lease one year, allowing more time for negotiations between the county, Coachella Valley Water District and other entities that may be involved in a future partnership.
"I foresee us making sure that these type of events continue and the great thing about this is that why we’re having this event to raise awareness about the importance of this Lake Cahuilla Veterans Regional Park. We want to continue to have these types of events here," said Sup. Perez.
The lake also provides water to local agriculture, but the main concern is ensuring that an invasive species, known as the quagga mussel, doesn't infiltrate the lake, which could cause clogged pipes and millions of dollars in damages.
Local leaders are now working against the clock to figure out how to keep Lake Cahuilla open for recreational use while determining who is liable if an infestation were to occur.