Sunday, Aug. 19
6:30 p.m. The 72nd annual Golden North Salmon Derby is in the books. As of 5:30, derby officials say James McKnight’s 17.7-pound coho, turned in at the Douglas weigh station on Saturday, still holds the lead. That could change if one of the many boats lining up to turn in fish after the 6 p.m. finish can unseat McKnight.
The Auke Bay weigh station reports that they’ve received a few 15 and 16 pounders on Sunday, but nothing in the 17-pound range.
Scholarship fundraising has gone well this year, derby officials say. The Auke Bay station filled up 7 fish totes by 4:30 p.m. and the dock was taking on water with their weight. Each weighs about 1,000 pounds with ice and can hold about 80 fish. Passersby, including this reporter, pitched in to help the station move two more totes down to finish packing fish.
The leaderboard should be updated by tomorrow but won’t finalized until later.
Saturday, Aug. 18
6 p.m. A 17.7-pound fish has been turned in to Douglas Harbor this afternoon and looks to be leading the derby. Douglas derby official Jonathan Gunstrom said James McKnight turned the leading fish in Saturday afternoon. Paul Cury turned in a 17-pounder there today as well.
As the day winds down at the three weigh stations, derby officials are busy taking deliveries and weighing fish for a lineup of boats. Messages have been left with officials at the other two weigh stations and we’ll update this blog when derby officials are available.
A new leader board should be posted sometime tomorrow morning ahead of the last day. The Empire will be on hand at the Auke Bay weigh station for the final few hours.
11:30 a.m. Derby officials have posted the leaders from the first day. Emmalee Sims’ Friday afternoon fish had been pushed back to fifth place by the close of weigh stations Friday evening. Four fish are packed closely in the 16 pound range ahead of Sims.
The current leader is Isaac Gobel’s 16.7-pound fish turned in yesterday at 5:48 at Auke Bay. Matt Dull is listed in second place with a 16.7-pound fish weighing just a few hundredths of a pound lighter than the leader. Dull turned his fish in at 6:59 in Douglas.
Mathew Johns holds third place (16.3 pounds, turned in at 5:58 at Auke Bay) while Greg Smith fished his way to fourth (16.2 pounds, turned in at 3:44 at Auke Bay).
Friday, Aug. 17
3 p.m. Only a few fishing boats could be seen on the east side of Shelter Island and through North Pass, north of Juneau. It seems nearly every derby boat decided to fish the west side of Admiralty Island. They’re having success, too. From the north tip of Shelter Island to the southern boundary of the derby grounds at Point Lizard Head, the Empire chatted with fishermen on a series of about a dozen boats.
Each save for a pair on the east side of Shelter had fish on board by mid-afternoon. Some had more than a couple. It’s hard to say how many boats were out, but three loose groups of several dozen boats trolled at False Point Retreat, Cordwood Creek and Point Lizard Head, with open water between all three.
DeAnn Fuller and Tesla Cox on the Lil’ Mermaid had luck with two fish around False Point Retreat, where the first of three loose groups of trollers could be found.
“Mermaid magic over here,” Fuller said, as she and Cox, each sporting floral headdresses, held up their catch.
A little further south, grandparents Scott and Shari Guenther fished with their 7-year-old grandaughter Lily Abel. They pulled a fish on board in front of the Empire, their first of the day.
“We know we’re catching them down there, we’re heading that way,” Scott Guenther said.
The Jim family — father Randal and sons Kaden and Jaxin — had a few on board the Carbon Footprint when the Empire encountered them around the north edge of Funter Bay, what’s known commonly as Cordwood Creek. The group had a whole cooler full of coho and were hoping to find a tender to turn their fish in and camp that night.
“Make your own gear and get creative,” Schuon advised.
“Spit on your bait,” Randal Jim added.
Sunny weather held and a very light wind throughout the afternoon made for pleasant conditions on the first day.
Back at the Auke Bay weigh station, fish weighing was still slow. Derby official Kami Bartness reported that they now had the derby leader — a 15.7-pound fish turned in by 11-year-old Emmalee Sims. A 15.2 pounder turned in earlier in the day at the Douglas weigh station stands as runner up at of 3 p.m.
More than 600 fishermen have validated their tickets so far.
8:45 a.m. Back at the Auke Bay weigh station, Derby official Kami Bartness said a total of 436 ticket holders have validated so far this morning. Over half the derby participants so far are leaving from Auke Bay: 222 validated there, 43 at Tee Harbor, 69 at Fishermen’s Bend, 22 at Aurora Harbor, 28 at North Douglas, 43 at Amalga Harbor and 11 at Harris Harbor.
Fish can be turned in at three weigh stations: Auke Bay, Douglas and Amalga Harbor. Each is awaiting the first fish of the derby.
7:30 a.m. The official start. Fishermen can’t head out until they get their tickets validated starting at 7:30 a.m. Once the Auke Bay weigh station started validating, an armada of boats streamed slowly out.
We counted at least 40 vessels of all shapes and sizes leave in the first 10 minutes, shrouded partly by the last wisps of morning fog lifting off the water.
7:00 a.m. Don D. Statter Memorial Harbor buzzes with Golden North Salmon Derby preparation. A few dozen fishermen lined up a half hour early at the Auke Bay ticket validation and weigh station. The fish packer Charles T. tied up to the dock, ready to take fish for Territorial Sportsmen’s scholarship fund. Volunteers prepped totes full of free shaved ice to for derby competitors to keep their fish fresh. Local politicians running for office are here to shake hands and hand out snacks and coffee.
No fish will be turned in for at least an hour or so after the official start at 7:30.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 321-6584 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.