Mark Edwards of Haines hauled in a 41.9-pound king to win the 34th annual Haines Sportsmen’s Association King Salmon Derby Sunday.
Nineteen fish were turned in at day’s end, bringing the derby’s five-day total to about 50 fish. Last year’s winner, Bob Piper, took second place with his 34.45-pound catch. The derby benefits youth activities in Haines.
Edwards landed the winning fish Saturday off Rainbow Glacier. “At first I thought it might be a seal. When it didn’t surface after five or ten minutes I figured it wasn’t a seal and started reeling it in,” he said.
Edwards won his first derby in 1984 with a 42-pound king. He’s a seasoned derby fisherman. “I’m pretty sure I’ve fished them all since 1980, maybe 1978,” he said.
Edwards won roughly $5,000 in cash and prizes, including two round-trip tickets to Juneau, a $500 grocery gift card, cash donated by local businesses, a sportsmen’s jacket and a 2013 derby ticket. Edwards earned a bonus for being a paid member of the Haines Sportsmen’s Association.
President Kim Larson says Edwards is the first winner to fish on a season ticket and it paid off. Edwards caught his winning king on Saturday night and turned it in at the start of the derby Sunday morning. “He kept it on ice and it was in perfect shape, so it pays to buy a season ticket,” said Larson.
Close to $20,000 in prizes will be awarded at the derby’s annual banquet 4 p.m. Sunday at the American Bald Eagle Foundation, where official results will be announced.
The derby opened with 25 fish turned in over Memorial Day weekend. Josh Bentz led last weekend’s catch with his 30.4-pound king. Bentz finished fourth.
Fish and Game biologist Rich Chapell said the 50 fish turned in over the derby were about average for the past five years. Average rod hours to catch a king dropped slightly from 59 hours the first week to 54 hours over the second week.
Last year, the catch rate dropped to 28 rod-hours after 41 fish were turned in the last day of the derby. “Last year’s derby had a really exceptional day of fishing,” said Chapell. “We’re still projecting a good Chilkat king run, near the upper end of the escapement range (this year).”
This year’s derby raised more than $7,800 from ticket and fish sales. Fishermen purchased 81 season tickets and 73 daily tickets over two weekends. Proceeds from last year’s derby benefitted the Sportsmen’s Association scholarship program, Haines Little League, Haines Dolphins Swim Team, Haines Booster Club, Haines Venturer Scouts and the alcohol awareness ad campaign, among other projects. The derby was co-chaired by Kim Larson and Toni DeWitt. Ashley Sage served as dock chairman.
Unofficial top 20 entries as of June 2, 2012: 1) Mark Edwards (41.90); 2) Robert Piper, (34.45); 3) Otto Braaten (30.65); 4) Josh Bentz (30.40); 5) Steve Conely (24.90); 6) Louis Lenicola (24.55); 7) Stuart DeWitt (24.55), 8) Lawrence Willard (23.75); 9)Toni Dotson (23.50); 10) James Hart (23.10); 11) Chauncey Craig (22.05), 12) Lexie DeWitt (22.00); 13) Chuck Baltzell (21.60); 14) Wayne Walters (21.55); 15) Steven Scarrott (21.15); 16) John Carlson (20.95); 17) Ted Hart (20); 18) Karl Jay (19.80); 19) Ted Hart (19.65); 20) Jason Ghan (18.90).