The New Mexico Game Commission’s annual free fishing day is Saturday when residents and non-residents can fish public waters with no license or habitat stamp required.
“It lets the people themselves know what they’re missing out on,” said Jim Whary, the manager of Oasis State Park. “It’s just to encourage people to get out and fish, especially the ones who don’t fish.”
Whary noted that standard fees still apply at Oasis, including a $5 entry fee per vehicle and camping fees if applicable.
Marty Frentzel, chief of information and outreach for New Mexico Game and Fish, said getting youngsters into fishing is a big part of what the free fishing day is all about.
“When you get kids out on the water, they tend to grow up with greater respect for natural resources,” Frentzel said. “It’s important to reach them at a young age.”
Frentzel said children as young as 3 can be taught fishing fundamentals.
“The main thing is to teach the kids to keep the lines in the water,” Frentzel said. “They have a tendency to want to reel the lines in too fast.”
The game and fish department conducted a study in 2001 that showed more than 198,000 licensed anglers in New Mexico. Frentzel said there were about 57,000 anglers 12 years old and under to add to those figures.
Bluegill, catfish and crappie are good species for children to catch, Frentzel said.
Whary said that the lake at Oasis should be covered regarding catfish.
“Catfish were just stocked on May 27, approximately 630 pounds,” Whary said. “There are also still some trout remaining and there are some large-mouth bass and small-mouth bass (that are in the lake, but were not stocked by park staff).”
“I believe the lakes in eastern New Mexico are well-stocked with those fish,” he said.
Frentzel said there is no need to have children begin with cane poles.
“It’s good to get them used to casting at a young age,” he said. “Most kids come to realize that fishing is more about being with friends than catching fish.”
After the free fishing day, a license will be required for 12-year-olds and older. Whary said children age 12-14 can purchase a license for $5. The cost goes up to $17.50 for those 15 and older, with discounted rates for senior citizens ($5 for ages 65-69, free for 70 and older).
Fishing licenses can be purchased at Wal-Mart and Trader Horn True Value in Portales, and several locations in Clovis, including Wal-Mart and Big 5 Sporting Goods.