Saturday's Rainbow $5,000 trout-fishing derby at Diamond Lake is luring entrants with its greatest prize ever, and anglers are responding.
As of mid-week, about 600 people had signed up for the June 22 tourney in hopes of catching this year's Lithia Lunker and the $5,000 prize that goes with it if caught during the derby, now in its 16th year.
Past Lithia Lunkers, which are sponsored by Lithia Body and Paint, fetched no more than $1,000.
"There's a lot of interest," says Mike McMullen from The Black Bird Shopping Center, which runs the derby. "We usually get 400 to 500 sign up the week before the derby, so I'm figuring 1,000 to 1,100 is where we'll end up."
And this year's favorable weather forecasts sure beat last year's, when there was enough bad weather to challenge even the heartiest postal deliverer on his famed appointed rounds.
"It rained, it sleeted and it snowed all that Saturday, but people still had a ball," McMullen says.
Boat-builder River Hawk Boats also will sponsor a fish. If caught, that one will net its lucky angler a new River Hawk Pro V 14-foot lake boat, sans motor or trailer.
And the main sponsor, The Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford, will sponsor five tagged fish that will fetch $500 each if caught.
That's above and beyond the sliding scale of 30 cash prizes to the derby entrants who catch the 30 biggest fish.
Unlike past years, the prizes for catching the tagged fish are available only to registered derby entrants on Saturday.
The derby entrance fee is $16, with $1 donated to the local, nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates, which works on behalf of children in the state legal system.
The weigh-in begins at noon and ends at 3 p.m. Anglers must be in line by 3 p.m. to qualify for the weigh-in regardless of how long the last-minute line is.
As in past derbies, each registered contestant can weigh in only one fish.
Those seeing dollar signs will be keeping their eyes on the backs of the rainbows they net. They'll be looking for "floy tags," which are sometimes referred to as "spaghetti tags" because of their noodle-like appearance.
The tags are about 3 inches long and each bears a secret code denoting it as a derby-winning fish.
Register at Black Bird or Diamond Lake Resort. For details, call Black Bird at 541-779-5431 or the resort at 1-800-733-7593.
Hunters who have yet to grimace or smile at seeing the results of their controlled-hunt draw can find answers on the World Wide Web.
Results of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildife's annual lottery to mete out tough-to-get big-game hunting tags have been available since Friday online at https://or.outdoorcentral.us/or/hunterreport.
To check for results, hunters should log on, enter their hunter identification number, last name and date of birth, then click "My Information."
ODFW this year processed 274,022 applications for the 131,954 big-game tags adopted June 7 by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, ODFW Wildlife Division Spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said.
This year's tag numbers are nearly identical to last year's, with an increase of just over 1 percent. Last year, the agency received 365,975 applications for that year's draw.
The biggest change among deer and elk tag numbers are an 8-percent increase in bow and muzzleloader tags and a 6-percent increase in youth elk tags, upped this year to 1,115 statewide.
Overall buck deer tag numbers are slightly less than 1-percent lower than last year's.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.