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Catfish derby catching on

The Biggest Catfish Challenge Derby is back, and with bigger prizes and an extra hour to fish.

Oasis State Park is hosting the derby for the second year on Saturday, with the help of the Friends of Oasis State Park group.

“It’s just a good night out, relaxation under the stars, fishing and a prize, if you get the biggest fish,” Friends group treasurer Aileen Eastwood said.

The junior and adult categories each have prizes of $100 for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third place, up from last year, when prizes ranged from $75 to $10.

Park Ranger Valerie Russ said prizes would go to the anglers with the fish weighing the most right after the end of the fishing time.

Eastwood said organizers decided to have the derby go an hour later this time because last year, people said the fish didn’t start biting until it was time to leave.

The catfish derby made its debut last year as an idea of the park’s Friends group.

“We had a good turnout for it, so we thought it would be a good thing for us to do to help out the park,” Eastwood said of the decision to hold the event again.

Last year, Russ said, about 110 people competed in the derby. She hopes for more this year.

Eastwood said a lot of families and children attended the first derby, and a child caught the biggest fish.

“Everybody seemed to enjoy it,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll be back this year.”

Proceeds go to the Friends, who use the money for needs around the park.

Anyone can enter the derby, but participants 12 years old and older need a valid New Mexico fishing license. Russ said they can get licenses at Wal-Mart and sporting goods stores.

Also, competing anglers can keep their catches, as long as they don’t exceed the bag limit of two fish per person.