Update: The Golden North Salmon Derby has been postponed. Read about it here.
The winning catch of this weekend’s Golden North Salmon Derby will almost certainly be the biggest one in three years.
The popular fishing derby will be open to king salmon for the first time since 2016, giving anglers three different kinds of salmon to enter the derby: king, coho and sockeye. King salmon are the largest salmon species, and historically have nabbed the top spots in the fishing contest.
The top 13 fish in 2016’s derby were all king salmon, according to an earlier Empire article, with Katherine Dimond taking home the top honors with her 27.4-pound catch. With only cohos and sockeye allowed the next two derbies, the winning catch dropped 18.8 pounds in 2017 and 17.7 pounds in 2018.
“Every year throws unique things at you and I think we’re poised to do well with this derby,” GNSD co-chair Doug Larsen said. “Of course a lot of it will depend on the weather and the number of the fish we see show up. Those are always the big ones. Those are always the uncertainties.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order that closed all of king salmon just days before the 2017 derby. The king salmon fishery was actually open to sport fishing the next year, but Fish and Game still opted not to give Territorial Sportsmen a permit to sell king salmon. Territorial Sportsmen raises thousands of dollars of revenue through fish turned in.
“I think they realized what they did wasn’t necessary nor something that they would do again if given the same situation,” Larsen said.
Territorial Sportsmen — a conservation organization that promotes the interests of outdoors users — has put on several recent king salmon symposiums. Larsen said one of the takeaways from those symposiums is that the king salmon prevalent during the derby are not from threatened stocks such as those from the Chilkat and Taku rivers.
“By this time of year, August, those fish have moved up the rivers and now the fish that are coming in are going elsewhere,” Larsen said.
Other Juneauites don’t quite see it that way.
Bill Brown, owner of Taku Reel Repair, said in a recent Empire My Turn he would be sitting this derby out because of conservation concerns over king salmon.
“If the Territorial Sportsmen were true conservationists, they would not accept king salmon in the derby,” Brown wrote. “I realize that even anglers targeting cohos will catch some kings — but they’ll catch more kings if they are targeting them. Too many in my opinion.”
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.