I was going to begin by noting that picking outperforming energy services stocks lately has been about as tricky as shooting fish in a barrel, but I really think the latter would be harder. I mean, first you'd have to find a barrel. Next you'd either have to catch or purchase enough fish to stack your odds high enough to make the exercise a success. That's a lot of effort for a really useless task.

Now, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, energy services. The group, as represented by the Oil Service HOLDRs (AMEX:OIH) ETF, is up nearly 30% year to date. And the good companies are doing even better.

To wit, the three firms that energetic colleague Dave Smith tapped in an introductory piece in December -- Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB), Transocean (NYSE:RIG), and NATCO Group (NYSE:NTG) -- are all leading the group this year. The biggest outperformer of the three is NATCO Group, up about 50%. After a move like that, it's now got my full attention. A recent 8-K filing gave me even more reason to be interested in this small oil and gas separation and decontamination expert.

I was already vaguely aware that management owns a big chunk of shares. The firm has noted its principals' financial interest in NATCO's success as far back as the 2000 10-K. What the recent SEC filing clears up for me is that this stake is not merely a chance result. There is a real ownership culture here.

The company's board recently revised stock ownership guidelines for senior management and board members alike. Board members are expected to own the equivalent of twice their annual retainer, and certain execs face a sliding scale of two to five times base salary. Just like I want to patronize a chef who eats his own cooking, so do I also want to invest alongside managers who own shares in their own firm.

Related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't own shares in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy would never shoot an innocent fish.