Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


King derby nets a slew of salmon


June 9, 2011

The 33rd annual King Salmon Derby concluded Sunday with a whopping one-day take of 41 kings. Resident Bob Piper, with his 39-pound catch, edged his wife, Tammy, for the win.

"I’ve been doing the derby 10 years now, and Sunday was the most fish in one day," said Kim Larson, event co-chair.

The derby, centered at Letnikof Dock, is sponsored by the Haines Sportsmen’s Association as a fundraiser for youth activities.

According to unofficial results, the derby hauled in 69 kings over the last two weekends.

"I remember some derbies that were more fish, but I certainly don’t remember 41 in one day," said Daymond Hoffman, Dejon Delights owner, who purchased the kings for his shop.

Piper, a first-time derby winner, Sunday snagged the top fish near Glacier Point in a 17-foot Boston Whaler.

"I knew it was the biggest fish of the day so far," Piper said.

His lead appeared short-lived, as "the next fish was more of a battle," when Tammy caught a 38.5-pound king. But it was only big enough for second place.

"I thought she was going to get me," Bob said.

The Pipers endured a slow Saturday, when Bob said, "We spent all day out there, and we caught a shaker and two Dollies." The derby tallied only three kings that day.

Bob said there was little doubt he would return on Sunday, since he is "kind of a hardcore derby fisherman."

Tammy’s runner-up finish matched her highest placement in the derby. Bob’s mother, Nancy, was a three-time winner.

The top prize is $2,100 cash, a $90 derby jacket, $21 in DVD rentals, and a bonus for current Haines Sportsmen’s Association members valued at more than $700. That package includes roundtrip airfare for two to Juneau, overnight hotel accommodations, a set of carving knives, a ticket for next year’s derby and a McDonald’s gift certificate.

Toni DeWitt, event co-chair, won in 2010 with a 33.4-pound king. That derby collected 44 fish from 32 fishermen.

DeWitt unofficially placed 13th this year.

"The weather was pretty darn good (Sunday)," she said. "There were a couple nice tides in there, and I think it was a record daily count for the derby. That was pretty remarkable."

About $16,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded at the derby’s banquet 6 p.m. Sunday, June 12, at the American Bald Eagle Foundation, where official results will be announced.

The derby opened with 25 fish during the Memorial Day weekend, and resident Dave Parks was the leader with a 32.65-pound king. Parks finished fifth.

Fish and Game biologist Rich Chapell said he didn’t have a theory for why Sunday was so successful for derby fishermen.

"The catch rates out in the saltwater fishery in Chilkat Inlet don’t correlate very well at all with the abundance that we see up on the spawning grounds," Chapell said. "I wish it did, and then we’d have a good indicator of what the escapement’s like."

Rod hours dropped from 97 per king salmon the previous week to 28 rod hours, he said.

"It was a big improvement over last week, but, still, that’s a lot of time to wait for king salmon," Chapell said.

He agreed that the 41 kings "may be a daily record," but projections remain moderate.

"Our official forecast is that we’ll have a kind of small king salmon run that will meet the escapement goals and allow normal harvests of kings by the fisheries in the area," Chapell said.

Hoffman of Dejon Delights said Tuesday the kings are in high demand, and the winning fish already was "eaten or smoked."

"People were literally coming in and watching me fillet them and measuring out the size of the piece of fish that they wanted," he said.

The unofficial top 20 entries are: 1) Bob Piper, 39.0; 2) Tammy Piper, 38.5; 3) Mike Ward, 34.25; 4) Marilyn Parks, 33.55; 5) Dave Parks, 32.65; 6) Josh Bentz, 30.6; 7) Michael T. Ward, 30.6; 8) Tyrell Horton, 28.5; 9) Larry Zehe, 28.15; 10) Eric Ferrin, 28.1; 11) Charlie DeWitt, 27.2; 12) Steve Parks, 26.9; 13) Toni DeWitt, 26.85; 14) Ken Gross, 26.7; 15) Richard Zehe, 26.35; 16) Stuart DeWitt, 26.15; 17) Deborah Asper, 26.15; 18) Rodger Tuenge, 25.55; 19) Jimbo Stevens, 25.50; 20) Dave Stickler, 25.10.