CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Kade Duarte of Clovis gets ready to cut his catch from the line at the fishing derby held Saturday at Oasis State Park. Duarte checked for a tag, then threw the rainbow trout back in the lake.
The phrase got bandied around plenty at Oasis State Park, in one form or another — a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at almost anything else.
At least in terms of weather, Saturday was a great day for fishing, as sun and a light breeze did just enough to keep the fishers warm and the water cold at Oasis’ second annual trout derby.
As of noon, park officials had counted 206 fishers who had paid a $5 entry fee for the event.
The park doesn’t make a huge profit, but Friends of Oasis President Brad Cozine said the $1,000 helps fund the annual kid’s fishing clinic and entertainment for a summer concert.
“All the money that’s taken in,” Cozine said, “goes right back to the park.”
Prior to the derby, which ran 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., park officials stocked the lake with 1,650 rainbow trout. Of those trout, 30 are tagged under their dorsal fin. The tags are worth either $10 (20 tags), $25 (eight tags) or $50 (two tags).
In theory, each fish caught is a lottery ticket with a 1-in-55 shot. People could keep whatever they caught, tag or not, but Kade Duarte of Clovis was throwing his catches back into the water.
“Usually, I’m going to throw it back unless it’s tagged,” said Duarte, a sophomore at Clovis High School.
There was a mix of young and old around the lake, including 8-year-old Mikiela Cano of Clovis. Saturday was her second derby, and she was taking a break after catching her first fish.
“I like when you hold the fish,” Mikiela said. “It’s slimy, and it’s fun to hold.”
Some of the older kids hadn’t yet caught anything, but 11-year-olds Cheney Hancock and Austin Davis were having just as much fun cracking on each other for poor casts or when their chairs fell into the shallow edge of the lake.
“If you just catch a fish, there’s an adrenaline rush,” said Hancock, who was told about the event by Davis.
The fish stories were there, as well, from the sardine-sized catches to the hauls that didn’t quite happen. Several fishers lost catches when their lines crossed with each other, and Robert Tafoya of Clovis could only hang on to one fish when he was reeling in a pair his line caught.
“One of the them was tagged,” Tafoya joked to his friends. “The one that got away.”
The derby and the clinics, Cozine said, are limited to fishing, but there’s a benefit if they invest their time in fishing instead of getting in trouble.
“You teach the kids about the outdoors,” Cozine said, “they’ve got a better chance at life (in general).”