Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Craig's derby winner: 34.7 pounds


Former resident Chauncey Craig reeled in a 34.7-pound fish to win the 35th annual Haines Sportsman’s Association King Salmon Derby on its final day.

“It’s easy when you have the best skipper in the whole world,” Craig said about close friend Charlie DeWitt, whose boat Craig was fishing on when he landed the lunker. “It was my first and only fish I caught throughout the whole derby.”

Craig’s catch came about 9:15 a.m. near Rainbow Glacier, the same area where Mark Edwards caught last year’s derby winner, a 41.9-pound king. Edwards placed second in this year’s derby with a 28.7-pound fish.

“I’ve been fishing this derby for the last 20 years off and on, and finally it feels good to have beat an old friend,” said Craig. “It was the first derby I’ve ever won.”

The derby had a solid year in ticket sales with 92 season and 97 daily tickets sold, but participation was down from previous years and anglers turned in just 33 kings, one of the lowest totals in event history. Fifty fish were turned in last year.

“People held back a little bit. The weather on Saturday was choppy, but all the other days a person could have gone out in a skiff,” said organizer Toni DeWitt.

Slow fishing and a daily bag limit reduced this year to a single fish may have hurt numbers of fish turned in at the derby dock, she said.

With $18,500 in cash and prizes, the derby still has strong support from sponsoring businesses and the community, as well as from its about 200 participants, DeWitt said. “It’s a great family event. That’s the way I think of it. I think people love the derby.”

State Department of Fish and Game sportfish biologist Rich Chapell called the derby take “low” but about what the state expected. “In the past few years, the best time for fishing has been the first and second weeks of June.”

An average catch time of 89 rod hours per king late last week compares to a five-year average for the same week of 49 rod hours, Chapell said.

Although it appears that the bulk of the king run typically comes after the derby in mid-June, the sportsman’s association isn’t looking to move derby dates. It’s uncertain whether Fish and Game would approve a date change, DeWitt said.

DeWitt said derby fishing on the peak of the king return may also run counter to the group’s conservation ethos. “People laugh when I say that, but we want there to be fish returning in future years. We take care of our run here.”

DeWitt said she was enthused to offer derby prizes to children for Dolly Varden catches. DeWitt said the derby netted about $6,500 for her organization, minus a couple outstanding bills.

Winner Craig said part of the fun of the derby is the people. “The hospitality of Haines and the derby is always so excellent. You don’t even have to open your eyes up there to know that what you’re getting is something great.”

The King Salmon Derby’s award ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday at the American Bald Eagle Foundation where official results will be announced.

Unofficial results of the derby’s top 20 fish include: 1) Chauncey Craig, (34.70); 2) Mark Edwards, (28.70); 3) Robert J. David Jr., (28.15); 4) Charlie DeWitt, (26.65); 5) Glen Hart, (26.10); 6) Devin Braaten, (25.45); 7) Bev Klanott, (24.95); 8) Elli Braaten, (21.20); 9) Connie Staska, (19.45); 10) Jeff Klanott, (19.45); 11) Randy Bachman, (19.25); 12) Marvin Willard Sr., (19.20); 13) Mike Ward, (18.85); 14) Jason Ghan, (17.95); 15) Leonard Willard, (17.80); 16) Barb Warner, (16.80); 17) Angelica Sweet, (16.20); 18) Lucy Harrell, (16.15); 19) Tyrell Horton, (15.80); 20) Lawrence Willard, (15.20).


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