Twenty-nine pounder takes derby crown

When David Turner Jr. caught his 29.25 pound king salmon on Monday, he didn’t expect it to be worth $12,000.

“That’s the biggest king salmon I have ever caught so it was pretty sweet. I thought it might place, but I definitely didn’t think it was the first place fish,” said Turner, who took home the top prize in the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Spring King Salmon Derby.

Turner — who was fishing a herring with white and silver flasher at False Outer Point — found himself at the right place at the right time: 35 feet away from shore and fishing in 17 feet of water.

“I got real lucky and ran over the right fish at the right time. He was just hungry and I got lucky and went by him and he got it,” Turner said. “It didn’t feel as big as it was on the line.”

After catching the fish, David and his brother Stephen high-tailed it back to Auke Bay in his 19-foot Bayliner, then to Jerry’s Meats to officially weigh the fish.

“Once we got to the dock my cousin Dennis came to help me take care of it. We put it on our scale and it was 32 pounds. We gilled and gutted it and it was still right above the 28 mark so we went right to Jerry’s as fast as we could,” Turner said.

Turner does drywall and framing for Northern Lights Development and moved to Juneau four and a half years ago from Michigan. He’s only been fishing two years and hopes to use the windfall of prize cash to vacation and spruce up his fishing boat.

“I’m gonna go on a vacation, buy some new stuff for my fishing boat,” said Turner. “Probably go to Hawaii for sure, but that’s later in the year.”

Turner won $10,500 in cash along with a slew of gift certificates for glacier tours, pizza, hardware stores, hotel stays and other goodies as the first place finisher. Turner also won “bragging rights for the year,” as he put it.

The Spring King Derby is a month-long king salmon fishing contest that takes place every May. It benefits CCTHITA’s higher education fund, which awards college scholarships to enrolled Tlingit and Haida tribal members.

Turner’s 29.25-pound fish edged out Cole Dysinger’s 28.40-pound fish. Turner’s catch is the smallest king to take the derby’s top prize in its 20-year history, a full 3.4 pounds smaller than the next-smallest derby winner, Dan Neal’s 32.65-pound winner from 2010. The biggest all-time winner was Robert A. Dilley’s 51.40-pound fish in the 2004 derby. The average Spring King Salmon Derby winner has been 36.45 pounds.

Look to the Empire online Friday afternoon to hear Turner tell his fish tale in a video interview.

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