Fishing and Family Part of 69th Salmon Derby

By GARLAND KENNEDY

Sentinel Staff Writer

    The coming holiday weekend marks the return of the annual Sitka Salmon Derby, a competition now in its 69th year that celebrates not only the sport fishing pursuit of salmon, but connections forged by family and friends on the water.

 

2023 Sitka Salmon Derby winner Caleb Gray poses with his dad, Kenny. This year’s event kicks off Saturday. (File Photo)

    The derby launches Saturday and runs through Memorial Day on Monday then resumes the weekend of June 1 and 2, with tickets on sale now. Competitors turn in king salmon they catch on derby days in hopes of pulling up the many prizes on offer, including the big one worth $7,500 for the heaviest fish entered in the five-day event.

    The derby signifies the start of summer to longtime chairman John McCrehin.

    “It’s the biggest summer event kick off for the families, and when we talk about families it’s any combination you can think of out there competing against the other person. And of course when it comes to families, I’ve got my daughters down here. This year, I have a granddaughter down here and maybe a grandson. So it’s a family event,” he told the Sentinel Tuesday.

    McCrehin is president of the Sitka Sportsman’s Association, which hosts the traditional event.

    In a typical year, about 300 derby tickets are purchased, and he expects this year’s figure to be in that range, though some folks “wait until the last minute to see what the weather’s going to do… We’re hoping for the same turnout as last year, if not better.”

    The National Weather Service calls for an increasing chance of rain through the weekend with winds up to 10 knots predicted around Cape Edgecumbe. Seas in that area are expected to range between 4 and 5 feet. Today, the NWS marine forecast included a small craft advisory in outside waters around Southeast Alaska.

    Derby coordinator Mike White enjoys seeing local families spanning generations come together on the fishing grounds.

    “It’s fun watching the kids throughout the years, they show up on their mom and dad’s boats, and now those kids are running their own boats,” White said. “And they have their own families, and it’s kind of like a legacy. You know, it just keeps going, which is kind of cool to do that.”

    As in previous years the salmon turned in during the five days of the derby are sold to Sitka Sound Seafoods, with the proceeds going toward Sportsman’s Association programs.

    The prize for the heaviest fish is two round-trip Alaska Airlines vouchers worth up to $2,500, along with $5,000 in cash. Second place wins a Mercury 9.9 horsepower kicker; third gets two round-trip tickets on Alaska Seaplanes. Other prizes include $69 for the 69th fish turned in, $400 awards for hidden fish weights, and a prize to the entrant turning in the highest cumulative weight of fish entered in the five-day derby.

    “Last year we did the team fishing thing. And this year, we’ve changed that and so this year we have –– it’s still under the Chuck McGraw Jr. Memorial –– but this year we have two $1,000 drawings each day of the derby and those will be drawn at the awards,” White said.

    State fish and game regulations are in force during the derby, with a minimum size of 28 inches for king salmon retained or entered in the derby. Entrants must have a valid fishing license with a king salmon stamp.

    Derby tickets are for sale at the barge in Crescent Harbor, at LFS on Katlian Street, and at Orion’s Sporting Goods in the Lakeside Center.

    Caleb Gray won the 2023 derby with a 32.5 pound king. The largest ever derby salmon was a 73 pounds, 6 ounces, king caught by Connie See in the first derby in 1956.

    The Crescent Harbor barge will be the main weigh-in station, and remote weigh-in stations will be operated by Eric and Sarah Jordan aboard the F/V I Gotta north of Sitka at Kalinin Bay, and by Josef and Tracie Castle on the F/V Sheila D south of town at Goddard.

    Money raised by the derby contributes to funding activities of the Sitka Sportsman’s Association, which holds hunter education and gun safety courses at their Halibut Point Road facility, and also hosts an RV park.

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20 YEARS AGO

June 2004 

Advertisement: Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital Caring Employee of the month! Franklin Thomas Hospital Nutrition Services.

50 YEARS AGO

June 1974

Edna Revard is enjoying a much-deserved vacation: she and youngest son Joe are in Italy visiting her older son, Jack, his wife and child. Jack is with the military, stationed in Italy. Edna will be gone a month, the crew at Revard’s Restaurant says.

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