Next week the Shaver Lake Trophy Trout Project puts on its annual Shaver Fishing Seminar at Herb Bauer’s in Fresno. It’s an event many look to as the start of the fishing year. But after watching the project’s quiet impact for the past 10 years, I asked myself, “What’s at the heart of their success and keeps it thriving?” How many other touted fishing groups have come and gone?
The inception came from a meeting between Dick Nichols and Captain Jack Yandell, with both agreeing that putting in trophy trout could be a game-changer for the Shaver area! Everyone loves to catch big fish … good start! Their plan for a trophy fishery was an exciting idea, but like all projects had to overcome a lot of initial problems before it came together. But with the supportive partnerships of Southern California Edison and Fish and Wildlife, it took off – a working partnership where stability and mutual interests fueled the effort to get results.
Good story so far, but, still, what was at the heart of it all? I asked Dick, the project president, this question. I felt I hit the mother lode with his answer. “We’re mainly a bunch of retired mountain guys who love to fish, enjoy the camaraderie, and are dedicated to continuing a never-ending trophy fishing project for Shaver. We want to pass on our love of fishing to our kids and future kids – and give them the chance to experience that – as well as for other anglers’ sake, while doing it for the overall good of Shaver and everyone going there! I think Shaver is a unique and special place, one where many families have lived or camped for generations. It seems to be the right mixture of community and people, where this kind of project resonates and folks get excited enough to support it.”
Digging deeper I spent some time with longtime project director Dave Dungy, asking him what he saw in the group that made it work. Ticking through the list, I was impressed with their many initiatives, such as the Down Syndrome Project, the Boy Scouts at Camp Chawanakee, the Native American kids’ fishing trips, the new Trout in the Classroom project at two local mountain schools and more. This was all part of their second phase, the Education of Youth initiative, manned by volunteers. That’s when Dave shared the real story behind his involvement.
“I saw this whole thing as a chance to make Shaver a special ‘destination’ spot,” he said, “and help the community prosper from it. I felt it was a way to teach kids and others about things like ‘catch and release,’ clean water, the environment, and getting families involved in these issues! We need to be good stewards of our resources, and this was the best way for me to contribute, reach the next generation and keep the cycle working. We have a bunch of great guys who believe in this thing and do the work.”
Wow! Obviously, there is more to it than a bunch of guys meeting for coffee and trying to raise funds. Incredibly there is no paid help for the projects they sponsor, and as Nichols told me, many members tap personal funds to pay for things. They have attracted many sponsors, folks who support the efforts and vision. Nichols explained that the bottom line for sponsors is that the group has built a track record of “honesty and a reputation for doing what they set out to do.” Yes! Trust is the great intangible!
“They support us because we have made the education of youth about fishing a top priority, while also providing trophy sized trout for future generations!”
Yes, Shaver has become the renowned trophy fishing destination Dick and Jack envisioned 10 years ago, one that benefits all Valley anglers. Serving others, that’s the “heart” of it! Never give up!