Gary, Minala and Garrett Reid stop by the Auke Nu Cove weigh in station to validate their tickets. The trio plan to fish throughout the derby weekend. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Gary, Minala and Garrett Reid stop by the Auke Nu Cove weigh in station to validate their tickets. The trio plan to fish throughout the derby weekend. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Getting down and derby

Salmon derby kicks off with slow start

This year’s Golden North Salmon Derby has officially kicked off, and the new Auke Nu Cove weigh station is bringing the heat.

[The fish that keeps on giving: The Golden North Salmon Derby is back and it’s fishy fun for a good cause]

By 1:45 p.m., the station located just past the ferry terminal was on the hook for the top fish of the competition so far caught by James Jack Sr. with a 14.4-pound king salmon, and coming in second was CM Chitty at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor weigh-in station with a 13.8-pound king. The other weigh-in station at Amalga Harbor had yet to see any fish coming into its station. As of 1:45 p.m., only four fish have been brought to the weigh-in stations. The Douglas weigh-in station also caught something big, but it wasn’t a salmon.

According to the City Borough and Juneau’s Docks and Harbors Facebook page, the ramp was briefly closed in the morning in an attempt to recover a truck and trailer that ended up in the water. Both were able to be towed out of the water, and the ramp was open shortly after.

“Please remember to use caution when launching your boats and always set the emergency brake,” said the post.

Friday is just the start as Juneau fishermen compete to see who can catch the biggest salmon, but it also serves as something much more meaningful as the funds generated from the annual event go toward creating scholarships for graduating high school seniors and graduate studies students who apply. This year five students will receive scholarships thanks to the funding from the event.

[Salmon derby scholarship helps local student reach longtime goal]

Gary, Minala and Garrett Reid stop by the Auke Nu Cove weigh in station to validate their tickets. The trio plan to fish throughout the derby weekend. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Gary, Minala and Garrett Reid stop by the Auke Nu Cove weigh in station to validate their tickets. The trio plan to fish throughout the derby weekend. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Shawn Hooton, the co-chair for the Salmon Derby, said he expects a good turnout in the competition this year and many prizes to be up for the taking.

“We’ve had a pretty good turnout over the last few years and have been very well backed by donations this year,” he said.

He said the event is expected to attract between 800 and 1,200 people, and the derby plans to give the first 50 contestants catching the largest salmon their choice of any one of the prizes after the first place prizes are given out. Along with the top 50, the person who catches the 76th top weight will receive a prize as well in celebration of the Salmon Derby’s 76th year hosting the event.

Though there was a steady flow of boats pulling up to the new weigh station, which is a City Borough of Juneau docks and harbor dock that extends into e at Auke Nu Cove, most people were coming in to validate their derby tickets.

Garrett Reid sit at the bow of his family’s boat as they come in to validate their ticket before heading back out to the water. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Garrett Reid sit at the bow of his family’s boat as they come in to validate their ticket before heading back out to the water. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Kami Grant, who has volunteered with the derby for the past 18 years, said she expects more and more fish to start coming in throughout the day.

She and other derby volunteers said they expect more and more fish coming into the station throughout the day and the rest of the weekend, and anticipate the leaderboard to be constantly changing. Grant, who is the daughter of the derby’s 1956 scholarship Olaf Bartness, said the largest derby fish she witnessed was Sheldon Winters’ 2008 winning king weighing in at 35.6 pounds.

David Love, who was working at the weigh station for the Division of Sport Fisheries a part of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the derby weekend typically brings in around 70% of coho salmon between 1,000 and 4,000 fish per year depending on the runs. He said in the last three years, the biggest fish caught were kings from Douglas, but there is no guarantee of where the biggest fish will be caught.

Jaxon Sipniewski catches a flounder on the Auke Nu cove dock. He joined his grandmother, JoAnn Birt, as she volunteers at the weigh-in station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Jaxon Sipniewski catches a flounder on the Auke Nu cove dock. He joined his grandmother, JoAnn Birt, as she volunteers at the weigh-in station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

He and other ADFG workers come to the stations every year and use the fish caught for the derby to do catch sampling for conservation management and keeping track of the fish in South East Alaska.

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

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