The adage goes that a bad day of fishing is better than a good day doing almost anything else.
Saturday at Oasis State Park, the adage could have been that few things beat a great day of fishing — except maybe two of them.
The park's third annual fishing derby, with an 80-degree day and little wind, had what fishers called a pleasant start Saturday.
This is the first derby featuring two days of fishing, both running 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the park's lake, stocked with about 1,600 rainbow trout in the days leading up to the weekend.
The derby drew about 130 entrants Saturday, and staff estimated park attendance was more than twice that with other family members along for the day out. Fishers could keep what they caught, but many were throwing fish back unless they were marked with one of 31 colored tags — one $100 tag, two $50 tags, eight $25 tags and 20 $10 tags.
In the previous two years the derby took place, park employees noticed that not all the tagged fish were caught, and even the unmarked fish remaining were plentiful.
The derby includes a $5 charge per entrant. But the point of the derby is to promote fishing and park use, and the staff does everything it can to give that money back to entrants in the form of tagged fish and door prizes.
Park Director Jim Whary didn't want to get into specifics, but said, "the first two times we did this, we felt we weren't paying out enough."
Whary said one of his employees, James Williams, made a simple suggestion — how about two days of fishing? Staff agreed, figuring it wasn't much extra work and people would happily come back a second day.
Most of the fishers surveyed said they had already set Sunday aside for fishing.
"I come every year," said Rudy Rivera of Portales. "I believe in that (adding a second day). The fishing's been good, except for maybe now (1:30 p.m.) since it's getting warmer."
Even those who weren't aware of the derby penciled in Sunday once they got to the park. Jenalee Watson of Portales said she was just taking her two children to the lake for a day of fishing, unaware of the derby until she saw the crowd at the lake.
"My son wanted to catch a big fish, because he saw one on TV," Watson said, pointing to 4-year-old Xzavier. She noted her husband caught a tagged fish at the derby last year, and Xzavier said he wanted to beat his dad and catch the $100 fish this year. Jenalee also brought her daughter Zaliyah, 3, to the derby.
Most people brought their family, whether it be children, stepchildren or pets — mostly dogs — and even Steve Silva's iguana named Elvis.
Silva said he wasn't catching anything, but to his right were a few more successful fishers, including Nathan Salas and grandfather Ralph Torres of Portales.
They had eight fish in their net, caught with worms and salmon eggs, and Torres said, "We need two more, then we're going home."
Some were catching; some weren't. Everybody was catching some sun, however, with lack of cloud cover being the only complaint.
"It's a good way to get a sunburn," joked Jeremy Laken of Clovis, while spending the day with his kids.