August means coho fishing in Juneau, and there are few places better to sport fish for silvers near Juneau than the west side of Admiralty Island.
Today is the last day of Territorial Sportsmen’s 72nd annual Golden North Salmon Derby. A $10,000 first prize coho may still be in the water.
A finishing bomb will signal the end of the derby at 6 p.m. today at Douglas Harbor, Amalga Harbor and Don D. Statter Memorial Boar Harbor in Auke Bay. Any boats wishing to weigh fish need to be inside the finish line by then.
On Friday, the Empire took to the water to see how fishermen fared during the first day. On board the Sea Pirate, a fast response salvage and marine services vessel run by Melino’s Marine Services, the Empire crew left Auke Bay a little after 11 a.m. and headed north.
Only a few fishing boats could be seen on the east side of Shelter Island and through North Pass, north of Juneau. A handful trolled on the backside of Douglas as well.
It seemed nearly every derby boat decided to fish the west side of Admiralty Island.
The “Alaska navy,” as Sea Pirate Captain John Melino calls it, was 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 about a dozen boats.
Each had fish on board by mid-afternoon. Some had more than a couple. Between 50,000 and 100,000 coho typically return to the Taku River system every year and sport fishermen were making quick work of the school as fish streamed in from Icy Strait and elsewhere.
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.
DeeAnn Fuller and Tesla Cox on the Lil’ Mermaid had luck with two fish around False Point Retreat.
“Mermaid magic over here,” Fuller said, as she and Cox, each sporting floral headdresses, held up their catch.
A little farther 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 they’re catching them down there, we’re heading that way,” Scott Guenther said.
The Jim family — father Randal and sons Kaden and Jaxin — and Josh Schuon 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 and a very light wind held throughout the afternoon, making for pleasant conditions on the first day.
Back at the Auke Bay weigh station, fish weighing was still slow in the early part of the day. Derby official Kami Bartness reported that they had the derby leader — a 15.7-pound fish turned in by 11-year-old Emmalee Sims. As of print deadline Saturday, Isaac Gobel led the derby with a 16.7-pound fish.
The Empire’s Golden North live blog at juneauempire.com will have the latest standings.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.