The Haines Sportsman’s Association’s annual coho derby wrapped up at the end of the last month with some monster silvers, but fewer participants than last year.
Still, the group managed to raise about $2,500 worth of ticket sales to donate to a youth scholarship for post-secondary students, and gave out more than $7,000 worth of prizes throughout the month-and-a-half-long event.
The winning fish in the marquee rod-and-reel division weighed in at 14.1 pounds and was caught by longtime angler Steve Anderson, a regular winner. The youth division saw some whoppers too, with Molly VanTighen hauling in a 9.65-pounder to win the age 5-10 division on the penultimate day of the event, which ended Oct. 29. Elliot Fleming broke the 10-pound mark with a 10.4-pounder to win the 11-15-year-old division on Oct. 27.
Jim Stickler, president of the association, said the highlight for him was the youth fishery.
“There were a couple young kids that sent some videos in — it was pretty special to watch. The kids were really excited,” he said.
Derby organizers sold 112 tickets, which were $25 except for the 5-10 division, which were free. Last year, about 150 people bought tickets.
“It was definitely down,” said Sportsman’s Association president Jim Stickler. “I don’t have a clue why — people with less time maybe. I bought a ticket and didn’t hardly have time to get my hook in the water.”
Participation numbers are way down from the previous iteration of the festival, the Haines King Salmon Derby, which has been canceled for the past few years with chinook fishing closed due to anemic runs.
This year’s fishing was reportedly good for most anglers.
“The people I talked to — the fishing was really good. There were a few times it rained real bad and the river got muddy and high,” said Stickler.
The relatively wet fall also gummed up Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists’ counts on the Chilkat River. High waters blew out the fish wheels, stymying a full count, but area fisheries biologist Nicole Zeiser said the anecdotal reports suggested good returns of coho.
“Based on what we caught in fish wheels, it looks like a very healthy run,” said Zeiser.