Than Ly reels in Perch Derby’s Grandmaster Trophy

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

 Than Ly reels in Perch Derby’s Grandmaster Trophy
Big congratulations to newcomer Than Ly, who went home with all the marbles this year at the 17th Annual Sand Crab Classic Perch Derby. When asked about his fish while accepting the trophy, Than whipped the wet surf perch out of his fish bag right on stage!

by Allen Bushnell

More than 300 surfcasting anglers gathered last Saturday at Portuguese Hall in Santa Cruz to celebrate the 17th Annual Sand Crab Classic Perch Derby. What started as a lark in 2005 by the Let’s Go Fishing Radio Show hosts Mike Baxter and yours truly has grown into a veritable institution over the years. Conceived as “something to do when there’s nothing to do,” during the off season, Derby directors were astounded when over 150 participants showed up for Derby number one. The numbers slowly grew over the next few years until we actually had to limit the number of participants at 300 to adhere with local fire laws at the celebration hall. A yearly opportunity to get together with friends and families for fishing and fun, competition is nevertheless intense every year. The BBQ tri-tip and chicken platters may have something to do with the Derby’s popularity as well.
This year, we saw a lot of familiar faces on the trophy stage, along with some newbies. The categories are divided into Men’s, Women’s and Juniors. Each category has trophies for barred surf perch as well as “other perch,” which can include surf perch such as walleye, redtail or calico or sea perch such as rubberlip, black and striped perch.
Taking home the giant Grandmaster Trophy for 2023 was Than Ly. This was Than’s first time at the Sand Crab Classic and he took top honors for his 15.5 inch barred surf perch (BSP). The fish weighed in at two-pounds, eight-ounces.  Men’s BSP winners were Dave Ressa placing first, Grag Vanwagoner taking second and Tony Jiminez going home with the third place trophy. Women’s BSP saw perennial winner Grace Volz in the top spot, with Cherry Jauregui and Kristina Zepeda taking second and third place respectively. Junior BSP winners were Andrew Rodriguez placing first, Kalia Dediego with second and Hudson Phillips at third.
In the “other perch” side of things, the Men’s division saw Matt Michie as number one this year with a rubber lip perch caught near Monterey. Nick Benson took second place with a striped perch and Nico Albrektsen captured third with another striped perch also caught in Monterey. The Women’s winner with her 12.5 inch striped perch was Samara Cortazzo from Santa Cruz. She caught the 1.5 pound fish somewhere near Pleasure Point using live bait. Samara is a consistent winner at the Classic. The Junior weigh-in celebrated Reiden Juaregui with a 13.5 inch rubberlip that weighed two pounds, 12 ounces, caught in Monterey, and Camilla Cortazzo who submitted a 9.5-inch striped perch .
Besides providing a yearly meet and greet plus fantastic food and prizes, the Sand Crab Classic is dedicated to promotion and support for The Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project. All proceeds from the event go directly to MBSTP to assist with their herculean task of preserving and enhancing the native populations of anadromous steelhead and salmon in our area, a critical venture involving research, habitat restoration, hatchery operations and educational efforts.

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