Doug Duncan was on pace to catch more than 60 pounds of salmon by the day’s end when he scooted off early Friday afternoon from the Don D. Statter Harbor in his friend’s 26-foot aluminum boat.
Duncan, 27, along with fishing companions Zach Forst and Robbie Provost, were frequent visitors to the Auke Bay weigh station on the first day of the 73rd annual Golden North Salmon Derby. After turning in a 11.4-pound coho salmon in the morning, the federal fisheries management specialist returned several hours later with an even larger catch, a 22.9-pound king salmon.
“That smells good, doesn’t it?” Duncan said as he smiled for a photo with his king salmon outside a small bright-green volunteer shelter.
As of 4:30 p.m. Friday, Duncan furnished the largest of the 16 king and coho salmon weighed at the Auke Bay station, plus a number of others weighed at the Amalga and Douglas stations. All three stations will remain open until 7 p.m. before opening up again 7:30 a.m. on Saturday. The derby, which can attract over 1,000 anglers, goes through Sunday evening.
“I’ve never seen fish like this come out around here so it’s kind of cool to find them,” Duncan said.
Fishing boats began streaming out of Auke Bay, Douglas and other Juneau harbors beginning at 7:30 a.m., the earliest tickets could be validated. At the Statter Harbor, that work fell to Kami Bartness, Cheri Wharton and Alysha Reeves. By the early afternoon, over 250 fishermen validated tickets at the Bartness-run weigh station, far more than any other station. The trio were also responsible for weighing and keeping records of the salmon that came in.
After punching over 100 tickets by 9 a.m., the volunteers had a little time to themselves. Most fishermen don’t start returning with fish until the late afternoon, Bartness said. She added things should pick up more as the weekend drags on.
“I think we’ll probably have another couple hundred validations tomorrow,” Bartness said Friday.
The seas were much more cooperative for the beginning of the derby on Friday. Jeff Nichols, a fish biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, fished in the morning on the backside of Douglas Island. Nichols described the seas as “lumpy” while adding “the bite seemed to be on.”
While breaking briefly from his fish sampling work, Nichols said the weekend’s rain could mean an influx of coho into the fishing grounds.
“The creeks come up, it sends more freshwater out, it’s a homing signal (and) they’ll go back to them,” Nichols said as a light rain began to fall. “All the fish that have been sitting out on the outer coast, the cohos, start smelling that water.”
Alan Sayler, 68, of St. Petersburg, Florida, was eager to start fishing as he left the weigh station for the nearby boat his daughter, Christine, captains for local tour company Harv and Marv’s.
Sayler fishes for “king fish, snapper, grouper, cobia and tuna” back home and was ready to see what Southeast fishing was all about.
“We’re supposed to bring some glory to the company today,” he said.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.