King salmon derby on Saturday
If anglers participating in the 35th Haines Sportsman’s Association King Salmon Derby this weekend are lucky, they’ll be catching some of the first kings hooked here this year.
Brian Elliott, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said there have been
no recorded catches since his department started surveying anglers two weeks ago.
“It’s starting out slow, but I don’t think it’s time to panic. There was not a lot of effort going on last week” due to high winds, he said. That’s not particularly uncommon, he said, as many derbies have seen fewer than 10 fish turned in during the first weekend.
The derby starts 8 a.m. Saturday at Letnikof Cove. Angler tickets are $15 per day and $50 for a season ticket. Derby fishing continues through 6 p.m. Monday, then resumes June 1-2.
The Sportsman’s Association is offering more than $18,000 in cash and prizes and a first-place prize worth $2,700. Complete lists of prizes and rules are available at local sporting goods stores.
Derby chairman Toni DeWitt is optimistic. She said kings are showing up at a Wrangell derby that started May 15 and the holiday weekend gives fishermen three days to find their quarry. “It’s a gamble. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Mark Edwards, whose 41.9 pound Chinook won the derby last year, said he’ll be out Saturday morning.
Edwards started fishing in April, but said high winds have been cutting into his derby training more recently. “It’s been real slow for me. I can’t count rod hours yet because I haven’t caught on. The meter is still running… I don’t
have a sense of a monster run coming.”
Derby chair DeWitt said she’s putting her hopes into the weather forecast, which on Tuesday was predicting temperatures in the mid-60s and winds less than 5 mph through the holiday weekend. “That kind of weather report
means people in skiffs and smaller boats can get out, so more people can fish.” It’s notable that several derby-winning kings have been hooked in the protected waters of Letnikof Cove, she said.
Resident Kim Larson, who has won a refrigerator, a three-minute shopping spree and $500 cash in previous derbies, said catching is only about half of the fun of the event. “There’s lots of relaxation. You’re out on the water with your friends. And when that king strikes, it gets pretty exciting.”
Anglers must donate their fish to the derby to win prizes. Season ticket holders can fish around the clock during the five-day competition, but must get their tickets validated at the start of each weekend. Those fishing around the clock also are responsible for maintaining their catch. Ice will be available at the derby dock during daytime hours.
Kings turned in during the derby are sold to a local processor and proceeds benefit youth group activities like scouting, as well as scholarships for Haines High School students. Prizes include special ones for seniors, women
and children. There are also prizes for secret weights and for total poundage caught by boats and individuals. A Dolly Varden competition for youths also will be held.
A change in sport fish regulations in Southeast this year limits Alaska residents to catching one king per day. The
harvest restriction is a response to declining king returns in the region and state.
Derby boats must have at least two fishermen on board and derby tickets must be purchased for each angler on board a boat age 5 and up. Youths age 4 and younger are not eligible to win derby prizes. For more information, contact DeWitt at 766-2490 or 314-3090.