A boat drops off fish to be donated to a scholarship fund for local high school students at the Golden North Salmon Derby weigh station at Don D. Statter Harbor in Auke Bay on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. Volunteers for the 74th annual derby said things had been slower than usual this year. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

A boat drops off fish to be donated to a scholarship fund for local high school students at the Golden North Salmon Derby weigh station at Don D. Statter Harbor in Auke Bay on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. Volunteers for the 74th annual derby said things had been slower than usual this year. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

28-pounder leads Golden North Salmon Derby

Results are yet to be finalized

Though it was scaled back this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 74th annual Golden North Salmon Derby came to an end Sunday with a 28-pounder leading the charts. Results will be verified Tuesday, according to the derby’s website.

Unless the certified results say otherwise, top prize will go to Sandra Mielke who on Friday turned in a 28.2-pound king salmon at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor. Second prize goes to Steven Birkinbine with a 27.6-pound king brought in Friday to Auke Bay and third to Louie Pusich who turned in a 25.5-pound king in Douglas on Saturday.

Youth awards go Cianna Kahl for a 17.9-pound king and Taylor Thorp with a 13.7-pound coho.

Jonathan Gunstrom, lead volunteer for the derby weigh station at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor puts a fish into an ice container during the 74th annual Golden North Salmon Derby on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. All fish caught in the derby are donated to Alaska Glacier Seafoods and the proceeds contributed to a scholarship fund. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Jonathan Gunstrom, lead volunteer for the derby weigh station at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor puts a fish into an ice container during the 74th annual Golden North Salmon Derby on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. All fish caught in the derby are donated to Alaska Glacier Seafoods and the proceeds contributed to a scholarship fund. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Anglers brought in 2,604 pounds of king salmon this year, according to Doug Larsen, president of Territorial Sportsman Inc., the group that sponsors the derby. That’s more than 900 pounds than last year, he said, but while numbers for kings were up, numbers for cohos were down.

“We had 8,821 pounds of cohos,” Larsen said Monday in a phone interview. “That’s about half of what we had last year.”

But kings sell for more than cohos, Larsen said, and while coho donations were down, ticket sales were $9,000 more than last year.

“The derby did pretty well this year,” he said, even with all the complications caused by the pandemic. “We’re just tickled we were able to pull this off, we feel very fortunate that we were able to do this.”

Historically, Larsen said, all of the money generated from fish sales is donated to the scholarship fund. Ticket sales and donations from businesses cover prizes and operational costs, he said, but any remaining money is also put toward scholarships.

As of Monday afternoon, Larsen said he had no reason to believe Meilke’s 28-pounder wouldn’t be this year’s winner.

Specific prizes are awarded to the top winner and this year, the fish that placed 74th, corresponding to how many years the derby has been running. The remaining winners have a choice of prizes, and are allowed to choose in an order corresponding to how their fish placed.

[Derby starts slow, but first fish has been caught]

First prize this year has a total cash value of $12,149, including $10,000 in cash from Territorial Sportsman. Prize packages have combinations of cash, gift certificates and other goods donated by local businesses.

The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus meant the sponsors who normally contribute money and prizes to the derby had to reduce their donations or skip out entirely this year. Normally prizes would have been awarded to winners from first all the way down to the anniversary fish. This year, only the top 40 winners — and the 74th — will get prizes.

A boat pulls into Statter Harbor in Auke Bay to deliver ‘scholarship fish’ or salmon caught during the derby which won’t be entered into the main competition on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. Those fish are exchanged for raffle tickets and their holders can be awarded prizes. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

A boat pulls into Statter Harbor in Auke Bay to deliver ‘scholarship fish’ or salmon caught during the derby which won’t be entered into the main competition on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. Those fish are exchanged for raffle tickets and their holders can be awarded prizes. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

All fish from the derby are sold to Alaska Glacier Seafoods and the money from their sale is put in a scholarship fund for local high school students. This year’s scholarship winners are Abby Dean, Brian Stevenson, Brice Norton, Rigdon Hermann and Sierra Lloyd.

Fish that are donated and not entered into the weighing are exchanged for a ticket which is automatically entered into a raffle for a number of prizes, including a chance to win $50,000. The derby website says winning ticket numbers will be posted Wednesday.

Last year’s derby winner was an even 24-pounds, also turned in at Douglas Harbor.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

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