Good catch! Young fisherman hooks large catfish at Arroyo Preserve

Jace Valentine caught a 9-pound catfish at the Arroyo Preserve in Rancho Santa Fe.

Jace Valentine, an avid 9-year-old fisherman from Rancho Santa Fe, recently caught a 9-pound whopper of a catfish at the pond at the Arroyo Preserve.

Jace had been at the Rancho Santa Fe pond for a few hours with his friends, dangling a chunk of hot dog as bait.

“The line was tight and I felt a little tug on the end,” Jace said excitedly sharing his fish tale over FaceTime. “I expected a 2-pounder but it turns out it was a 9-pound fish. It was huge! That’s the biggest fish I’ve caught in freshwater.”

Besides the catfish haul, the biggest fish he has ever caught was a 30-pound yellowtail in Coronado.

His parents still don’t know how his love of fishing happened—they do not like fishing and he hadn’t watched anything about fishing but one day when he was 2 years old he told them: “I want to go fishing.”

After his parents bought him his first fishing rod, he practiced in his pool. After about three months of practicing, Jace said he was ready. At the age of 2, he caught his first fish on his third cast out on his first fishing trip to the Arroyo pond. Despite its tiny size, he insisted that they take the fish home to eat for dinner.

Since then Jace, a R. Roger Rowe School fourth grader in Amanda Valentine’s class (no relation), has become more of a catch and release fisherman. His favorite spots are the Arroyo, San Dieguito River near the fairgrounds and San Vincent Reservoir in Lakeside. He has done all kinds of fishing including fly fishing, saltwater and fresh water, and has taken a couple of deep sea fishing trips on the ocean when he can convince his parents.

“I think it’s the suspense,” Jace said of why he likes to fish. “I like the feel of how it’s fighting.”

Jace caught his first salmon in Alaska by hand catching it off the side of a river when he was seven years old.

“We were waiting for a boat for fishing and Jace was tooling around by river bank. When he yelled, his dad was terrified a bear was close but it was Jace thrilled that somehow he snagged a salmon by the rocks,” said mom Jennifer. “We’re still shocked by that.”

Jace Valentine with a bullfrog he caught at the Arroyo.

Jace has taught himself most of his fishing skills by watching YouTube videos. Any chance he gets he bends the ear of his fellow fisherman, angling for advice. His favorite book? “The Fishing Encyclopedia.”

He has also taken care to educate himself about fish conservation: “I don’t want fish to go extinct.”

In addition to fish he has also caught crayfish and a giant bullfrog, which he unsuccessfully tried to keep as a family pet. Besides fishing, Jace also likes basketball, mountain biking and just being outdoors—he likes archery and makes his own boomerangs. He loves watching “Man vs. Wild” with Bear Grylls.

“He’s a survivalist type of kid,” said Jennifer. “Fishing just feeds his soul.”

Down at the Arroyo, Jace has passed along his passion by teaching other kids how to fish, including his younger brother Ryder. His dream fishing adventure would be a three-day boat trip fishing for bluefin tuna or marlin. All he has to do now is hook his parents.

Jace Valentine with a crab he caught in Del Mar.