Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File
A fish is weighed during the 75th Annual Golden North Salmon Derby. This year, fishermen competing as teams will be judged on the total pounds of salmon caught rather than by the number of salmon.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File A fish is weighed during the 75th Annual Golden North Salmon Derby. This year, fishermen competing as teams will be judged on the total pounds of salmon caught rather than by the number of salmon.

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

Don’t leave it to salmon else.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, and for Juneau residents, the popular competition for local fishermen to test their fishing chops — while also giving back to the community — is just around the corner as the Golden North Salmon Derby is set to take place across Juneau waters next week, Aug. 12-14.

The Salmon Derby, a famous event in which Juneau fisherman compete fish-to-fish 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 student will receive scholarships thanks to the funding from the event.

Since 1953, the Territorial Sportsmen Scholarship Foundation has put on derby to fundraise money to provide scholarships to Juneau students who exemplify the same “outdoor and adventurous” qualities that the Territorial Sportsmen try to emulate themselves. The derby sells all the fish caught on the day of the event and sends the funds to the Territorial Sportsmen Scholarship Foundation which then gives out the scholarships to the chosen recipient each year. Now, almost 70 years after the event’s genesis, the derby has raised nearly $2 million and given scholarships to more than 300 Juneau high school and graduating students. The scholarships are meant to help students further their education and use it to better the communities around them said members of the event’s board.

Eric Kirchner drops off one of several salmon during the 75th Golden North Salmon Derby in 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Eric Kirchner drops off one of several salmon during the 75th Golden North Salmon Derby in 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

This year’s scholarship recipients are five students all graduating students from Juneau-Douglas High School:Yadaa.at Kalé or Thunder Mountain High School. The students include Preston Williams, Matthew Johns, Elin Antaya, Gabrielle Shaawatgoox George-Frank and Colton Johns.

Ryan Beason, the co-chair of the Salmon Derby, said being on the derby board and a part of the event that gives out the scholarships every year means something extra special to him because he too was once a recipient of a Salmon Derby scholarship.

“It helped me out substantially, and helped me pay for my college,” he said.

Beason was a recipient of the scholarship in 2007, and along with winning the Salmon Derby twice, the money helped him pay his way through his education at Pacific University where he earned an accounting degree.

He said he is glad to be a part of the board and to give back to the community as it did for him, and said though it’s difficult to be a part of the process that chooses which students will receive the scholarships each year, it is worth it to see what the kids do to better the community.

“They’ve given so much to me, the least I could do was to come back and join the board,” he said.

Shawn Hooton, the co-chair for the Salmon Derby, said as people prepare to enter the derby, they expect a good turnout in the competition this year and many prizes to be up for the taking — that is if you got what it takes.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File
A fish is weighed during the 75th Annual Golden North Salmon Derby. This year, fishermen competing as teams will be judged on the total pounds of salmon caught rather than by the number of salmon.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File A fish is weighed during the 75th Annual Golden North Salmon Derby. This year, fishermen competing as teams will be judged on the total pounds of salmon caught rather than by the number of salmon.

“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 bring 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.

Hooton said the derby is an opportunity for people to put their fishing skills to the test with the chance of winning some prizes, and it’s also an opportunity to give back to the community.

“For a lot of people, they just come to bring family into town, but it’s also a chance to donate some money towards the scholarship,” he said. “That is one more reason.”

Hooton said there is one big change to the derby this year that people should be mindful of, and that is the relocation of the Auke Bay weigh station that has now been moved to Auke Nu Cove which is located near the ferry terminal.

Another update is after the success of last year’s team event pilot run, the derby will continue the competition, only instead of the number of fish, the competition will be based on the number of pounds of fish each boat brings in. Each team can have up to four members on one boat, and can simultaneously compete as individuals as well.

Know & Go

What: Golden North Salmon Derby

Where: A map of the tournament area is available online at https://www.goldennorthsalmonderby.com/.

When: The event goes from Aug. 12 to Aug. 14. Scholarship and special prize pickup at Centennial Hall on Thursday, Aug. 18 Shoreside weigh-in times are 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday and Saturday and 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday. Cost: $50 for individual adult tickets and $10 for kids ages 6-12 years old, $100 team entry fee per person.

Cost: $50 for Individual adult tickets and $10 for kids ages 6-12 years old, $100 team entry fee per person.

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

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