Ditch Bank Bandits Fishing Derby

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Bandits could be seen roaming the ditches this weekend at the Los Lunas River Park.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Reyes Gabaldon, 10, waits to get a bite from a fish at the Los Lunas River Park on Saturday. The Ditch Bank Bandits held a fishing derby to raise awareness about the importance of keeping the ditchbanks clean.

But these bandits were in the area for a good cause as the Ditch Bank Bandits hosted a fishing derby to remind residents to keep those territories free of trash and debris.

The group, started by Los Lunas resident Daniel Silva, is a collection of friends and family members who are outdoorsmen and environmentalists, who want to preserve the place where they grew up.

“I started this because I was tired of the trash,” Silva said.

On Saturday, the group hosted its second derby that included a fish fry and where residents fished for rainbow trout out of the arroyo. The winner of the heaviest fish received a $25 prize. The group raised $100 from entry fees that will likely go toward the group’s next event this summer.

Silva grew up jumping fences near the park and spending time hanging out with friends. Now, he said the group tries to get out to the park as often as once a week to clean the area.

Silva said his group wants to discourage people who throw trash, such as couches and drug paraphernalia, into the ditch that is stocked with fish. He said a goal of the group is to teach future generations to take care of the land in their community.

“We are trying to teach the young kids to keep it clean and to not litter,” Silva said. “We don’t want fish dying in our ditches.”

Group members say their mission is out of love and that they want others to know how important it is to preserve the bosque.

Silva and his uncle, Pete Garcia, are both guitar players, vocalists and song writers and have formed the Ditch Bank Bandits Band.

This year, the group raised awareness by picking up trash along the ditchbank when they weren’t trying to get bites from fish. Silva bought prizes, such as tackle boxes and knives used for fishing, for the event.

Another member, Josh Laurenzano, said he and other members are making a difference in a positive way.

“We are preserving our own ditches,” Laurenzano said. “It’s impacting us and the community.”

The group has filmed various YouTube videos that show the group fishing in the Los Lunas area in an effort to raise awareness about how pristine the area can look with a little bit of care.

Silva said the group plans to do another event ― a catfish fry — to keep residents aware that keeping their community clean is important. No date has been announced.

He said that he and other members will continue to visit the area and clean up trash. All the proceeds raised from Saturday’s event will go back to purchasing trash bags and other supplies to keep the bosque clean.

The group hopes that their effort can garner more community involvement.

“We want to bring the community together,” said Silva.

You can visit the group’s website by going to www.facebook.com/ditchbankbandits.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.