The catch was up, but fish were small during the first weekend of the 32nd Haines King Salmon Derby.

Twenty-four fishermen turned in 30 kings during the Memorial Day weekend. Richard Hart of Haines led with a king 28.75 pounds. Hart was trailed by Ray Staska, 26.35, and Jeff Fields, 22.75.

Clear, calm, warm weather allowed lots of fishing opportunity, pushing the first derby weekend’s harvest up from 14 kings last year. But warm weather also tends to send fish deeper in the ocean, making them harder to catch.

“No complaints. Everybody was having a good time,” said organizer Kim Larson. “Everybody I’m sure got a lot of color.”

Surprisingly, Hart’s fish, as well as the first catch of the derby, an 11.3-pounder landed by Lucy Harrell, were caught in Chilkoot Inlet, Larson said. As many as eight kings were caught on the Chilkoot side, she said.

Most derby kings are bound for tributaries of the Chilkat River and caught in Chilkat Inlet.

A hatchery release of king smolts at Lutak Inlet in 2008 was expected to begin returning to Chilkoot for the first time this year, but after only two years in the ocean, those fish were expected to average only seven to 10 pounds, according to state biologists.

Larson said the derby sold 74 season tickets and 24 daily permits, down a little from past years. A change this year to allow early-morning fishing didn’t result in better catches, she said.

“I know a lot of people stayed out later, but they weren’t catching them. There were a lot of smaller fish this year, and a lot of white kings,” she said. Most king salmon have a red-colored flesh.

Catches typically pick up during the derby’s second weekend, which comes closer to the run’s peak, and Larson was hoping for a total of at least 70 fish turned in.

The leading fish after the first derby weekend is typically larger than 30 pounds, she said. “There’s a big one out there somewhere and someone’s got to get it. It’s been a while since we’ve had a 50-pounder. That would be nice to get.”

The derby offers cash and prizes up to $8,000, including awards for the 20 largest fish. About $2,000 goes to the angler with the biggest king. Summer resident Sheldon Scarrott’s 33.9-pound king won last year’s derby.

Other derby fishermen turning in kings last weekend were: Dot Shackford, 22.4; Fields, 21.95; Scarrott, 20.25; Dave Folletti, 19.05; Mickey Geary, 18.65; Bruce Smith, 18.40; Jeff David, 17.70; Ryan Cook, 17.70; Robert Piper, 17.25; John Carlson, 17.10; Julie Ferrin, 17.05; Phyllis Sage, 15.4; Isaac Dueling, 14.80; Chuck Baltzell, 14.65; Cook, 14.55; Dave Shackford, 13.15; Glenn Mielke, 12.75; Hart, 12.5; Glen Hart, 12.15; Mielke, 11.45; Lucy Harrell, 11.3; Cook, 10.75; Mary Stickler, 10.65; Denise Thompson, 10.60; Jason Shull, 10.5; Josh Bentz, 10.05, and Shull, 9.35.