e race is on for the biggest catch in the second annual Silver Salmon Fishing Derby that began last Saturday and will continue through Oct. 29. The Haines Sportsman’s Association organized the event, which will give a $1,000 cash prize to the largest catch. Second and third place prizes are $500 and $350 respectively, but will not be judged by weight. Instead, entries will be chosen at random by Wendell Harren from First National Bank.

Alaska Sport Shop and Outfitter Sporting Goods are selling tickets for $25. Weighing stations are set up at both sports shops, where competitors can weigh their catches during business hours. All fish must be cleaned and gutted prior to weighing.

Sport fishers must hook their catch with rod and reel in the Chilkat or Chilkoot rivers, or in the salt water north of Eldred Rock. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulates a bag limit of three cohos per day on the Chilkat River, and two per day on the Chilkoot River.

As of Wednesday at 5 p.m., derby participants have turned in five fish to Alaska Sport Shop, including three by Krystal Norberg, and one by her husband, Gabe Long. Norberg currently holds the title of biggest catch at 10.55 pounds, compared to last year’s winner at 17.75 pounds.

“I’m going to be in a lot of vacation pictures,” Norberg said, detailing her catches at Chilkoot Lake on Monday, where she said she had a captive audience championing her reels – including an entire Alaska Nature Tours bus of tourists. She said she plans to enter more fish before the derby ends.

Doug Olerud, who owns Alaska Sport Shop and is tasked with weighing the fish, attributes the slow start of the competition to the corresponding start of moose hunting season. “Most locals would rather get a moose in the freezer than a coho,” he said. He expects more anglers to sign up in the coming weeks.

Until last year, The Haines Sportsman’s Association hosted a king salmon derby, but was forced to switch to coho salmon in 2017 due to fishing restrictions protecting a diminished Chilkat king salmon run.

“Coho are fun to catch,” said Haines Department of Fish and Game biologist, Richard Chapell. “They’re very lively sport fish on the line and they are in abundance –we’ve consistently met the escapement goal.”

According to 2017 survey results, there are about 2500 cohos caught each year in the Chilkat River drainage. On the Chilkoot River, the total catch in 2017 was about 600.

Proceeds generated from the derby will go to the Haines Sportsman’s Association’s scholarship fund. “Primarily, the only goal is for scholarships, and then to circulate a little money in the community,” President Will Hickman said.

He said that any additional money would go to road maintenance out at the shooting range and that the group hopes to raise between $2,600 and $3,000.