Colby Nelson throw one of the 11 fish he and Patrick Willis caught on Saturday for the derby. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Colby Nelson throw one of the 11 fish he and Patrick Willis caught on Saturday for the derby. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

A slow derby doesn’t stop local fishermen

Slow and steady wins the… salmon derby.

The second day of Juneau’s 76th annual Golden North Salmon Derby had hundreds of Juneau fishermen hitting the choppy waters for a chance to catch big fish, but according to officials, this year seems to be slow going.

[Getting down and derby: Salmon derby kicks off with slow start]

At all three stations across Juneau, officials said today was unexpectedly slower compared to previous years, but spirits were still high as all said they remained hopeful that will change as the weekend progresses.

The derby is a Juneau tradition where residents hit the waters hopped in their boats rain or shine to not only test their fishing chops against their neighbors but also give. back to the community. The funds generated from the annual event go toward creating scholarships for graduating high school seniors and graduate studies students. This year, five students will receive scholarships thanks to the funding from the event.

[Salmon derby scholarship helps local student reach longtime goal]

The weigh-in station that seemed to be pulling its weight the best was the new Auke Nu Cove weigh station located just past the ferry terminal which officials said had had a steady flow of fish coming in throughout the day.

Dixie the dog makes her round at the new Auke Nu Harbor weigh-in station. Behind her hangs Colby Nelson’s 12.5 pounds salmon.(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Dixie the dog makes her round at the new Auke Nu Harbor weigh-in station. Behind her hangs Colby Nelson’s 12.5 pounds salmon.(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

The largest haul at 12:30 p.m. came from Patrick Willis and Colby Nelson who brought in a total of 11 fish, one of which weighed 12.5 pounds while the others were placed as scholarship fish.

A salmon gets weighed at the Auke Nu Harbor station for the 76th annual Golden North Salmon Derby. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

A salmon gets weighed at the Auke Nu Harbor station for the 76th annual Golden North Salmon Derby. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

By around 11 a.m., the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor and Amalga Harbor weigh-in stations had only seen one fish each come into their stations.

“So far, it’s the slowest start in my 12 years,” said Jonathan Gunstrom, the dock captain at the Douglas Harbor weigh-in station. “People just aren’t coming in, and just aren’t bringing in the numbers.”

He said there seems to be a slight decrease in the number of salmon people have been bringing in for the derby over the years, but said a variety of factors might be at play and it’s tough to place reasoning behind it.

He said he hopes the numbers might pick up as the weekend progresses, but “so far it doesn’t seem like it’s trending in that direction.” He added, it “seems like fishing is slow everywhere.”

He said the most bins he’s ever seen filled was around 15 bins in 2010. Comparatively, Gunstrom said today, they’d be lucky to fill about five, and an official at Almagla said they expect similar results.

“It’s pretty slow so far, this isn’t normal for the derby,” said Misty Dohrn, the Amalga Harbor dock boss.

There was only one fish caught before noon by 10-year-old Grace Frederick’s hauled in an 11.8 coho with the help of her father, Brian. Besides that catch, Dohrn said she’s hopeful that more people will bring in their fish as the hours go by, but reiterated that this year’s derby seems to be quieter than years in the past.

Grace Frederick stands in front of the Amalga Harbor weigh in station next to her 11.8-pound coho salmon she caught with the help of her father, Brian. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Grace Frederick stands in front of the Amalga Harbor weigh in station next to her 11.8-pound coho salmon she caught with the help of her father, Brian. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

She said expects the weigh-in station will fill one bin today, which would top off yesterday’s numbers that hardly filled half.

Adam Lake, a fish and wildlife technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the lack of fish is either a sign that the fishing is really bad and people are staying out to try to catch something or a sign that the fishing is really good and people are staying out until later. He said he hopes it’s the latter of the two, but only time will tell.

He said the ADFG usually can have some idea of how the fishing might be by looking at the sampling data they took from the previous year’s survey, but due to COVID-19, the department didn’t sample the derby for the last few years.

Only one boat sits at the end of the Amalga Harbor Dock. Officials said this year’s derby had been particularly slow compared to previous years. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Only one boat sits at the end of the Amalga Harbor Dock. Officials said this year’s derby had been particularly slow compared to previous years. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

He said the department uses the samples from the derby to look at the genetics of Chinook salmon and their age to gauge where the fish are coming from. He said the sampling is more about getting a look at the fishery overall, and less about the stock, but it does help give some indication of what might be going on from year to year.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

2022 marks the 76th year the Goldern North Salmon Derby has existed in Juneau. The derby, which also doubles as a fundraiser, has raised nearly $2 million and given scholarships to more than 300 local high school and graduate students. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

2022 marks the 76th year the Goldern North Salmon Derby has existed in Juneau. The derby, which also doubles as a fundraiser, has raised nearly $2 million and given scholarships to more than 300 local high school and graduate students. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

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