Cortez is within close distance of several fisheries. Whether its a pond, lake or river, or whether an angler fishes for big fish, small fish, pan fish or catfish while using flatfish, anglers can get it all in Southwest Colorado.
Lester Sage, 39, has called Cortez home for 28 years and has been fishing since he was 3. He and his wife, Marie Sage, opened up On the Hook Bait & Tackle Shop at 100 E. Main St. in February to supply fishermen with fishing rods and reels, baits and lures.
Now Lester Sage is offering his more than 30 years of fishing experience, 20 of which that has been in professional bass tournaments, to local youths for free. Lester Sage will conduct free fishing clinics throughout the summer for ages 6 to 16 at the local Parque de Vida ponds and Denny Lake. These locations were chosen due to their easy access. Lester Sage plans to have each clinic on Saturdays every two weeks. The next clinic is scheduled for Saturday, June, 4, at Denny Lake from 3 to 6 p.m.
Lester Sage came up with the idea to conduct youth fishing clinics when two young boys came into On the Hook Bait & Tackle Shop one day and asked about learning how to fish.
They wanted me to take them fishing. Thats kind of what actually started it, Lester Sage said. Marie suggested to me that maybe we ought to do some fishing clinics and stuff like that for the kids.
Lester Sage wants to teach the sport of fishing for kids who have parents or guardians that may not have the time or proper knowledge to teach their own children. Lester Sage also feels fishing is a fun and healthy activity to do for youths, and that it can teach some of lifes important aspects.
Its a good stress reliever, it keeps them out of trouble, and it teaches them how to do things on their own, he said about the benefits fishing can provide youths.
The clinic starts out teaching kids how to tie proper knots, so they can tie on hooks, sinkers, bobbers and lures. Lester Sage, along with the help of his children Kristy, 20, and Darren, 18, show the kids how to properly bait their hooks and how to use the bait. Lester Sage wants to gradually wean the kids from bait fishing to lure fishing for trout later in the summer. The more advanced kids will be taught how to bass fish with lures such as, plastic worms and crankbaits.
You want to get them started off on the right foot, so then they continue to want to fish, Lester Sage said about beginning fishermen. If you show them how to fish, and theyre catching fish, theyre going to stay interested in it.
Parents have shown up to the clinics as well to learn new things and even to begin fishing like their kids. One of the major lessons taught is the practice of catch and release. Although Lester Sage does not require aspiring anglers to catch and release all of their fish, he strongly encourages it.
You dont have to keep every fish you catch, he said. If you keep every fish you catch, the next guy that goes out there to go fishing, isnt going to catch very many fish because its all fished out.
Lester Sage says catch and release is important with bass because the species takes much longer to reproduce than other fish in the area. For bass fishing, Lester Sage plans to eventually move the clinic to Totten Reservoir, located on County Road 29 just four miles outside of Cortez. Kids that are interested can fish with Lester Sage on his bass boat at Totten Reservoir. The select few will be taught boat safety and how to fish out of a boat.
Fishing out of a boat is totally different than fishing on the bank, Lester Sage said. Youre in closer quarters with other fishermen. You just got to watch while youre casting, so you dont hook somebody (on the boat).
If enough interest is garnered within the clinics, Lester Sage would like to move the fishing to a larger reservoir like McPhee, which houses large and smallmouth bass.
The smallmouth fishing in McPhee is probably better than any other lake here, said Lester Sage.
Lester and his father, Jack Sage, who held the previous Colorado state yellow perch record of 2 pounds, 8 ounces from 1990 to 2007 before the record was broken that year, used to fish bass tournaments at McPhee Reservoir, before Jack Sage passed away in 2004. Lester Sage wants to look into starting a local amateur bass fishing club for kids. The process of starting a local fishing club is begun through the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
For more information about the free youth fishing clinics, contact Lester Sage at On the Hook Bait & Tackle Shop at 564-5841.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at [email protected]