She may be in place to win first place of the 16th annual Spring King Salmon Derby, but Jackie Dailey doesn’t want to get ahead of herself.
“I’ve kind of taken to thinking that I’m not going to worry about it,” the 65-year-old retiree said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Dailey has held onto her first place standing in the competition for 10 days now. She caught a 38 pound, 4 oz. King Salmon ago last Monday. The derby lasts all month, so she still has 11 days to go if she wants to take home the nearly $4,000 cash prize.
Dailey was born and raised in Wrangell. She moved to Juneau in 1969 and has lived here ever since. She grew up fishing with her father, Mark Dailey, a commercial gillnetter.
Fishing was a way of life for her and her people, she said. Dailey, whose Tlingit name is Tleek, belongs to the Kaach.adi, the Raven Clan of Wrangell. She has ancestors that came through Alaska in the 1880s exploring for gold, and her great-grandmother came from Tall Grass, British Columbia, to Alaska to marry.
Daily says she always had a freezer full of seafood at home growing up, and “our family subsisted on moose, deer, salmon and crab.”
Part of that tradition was sharing food with elders, and family members who were unable to fish, she said.
Years ago, Dailey took up sport fishing with her husband, Ken Cesar, who was a commercial troller.
It’s become a favorite pastime ever since, she said.
“It’s just enjoying being on the water, the excitement of catching a salmon, the scenery, the quietness, being away from people,” Daily said.
But, still, that’s the not the reason Dailey participates in the Spring King Salmon Derby each year. It’s because the Derby benefits Native students seeking higher education, she said.
The Derby is sponsored by the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Alumni Scholarship Assistance Program.
Fifty-five students benefited from the money raised last year, which was about $28,000, said the Derby coordinator Leslie Isturis.
Dailey’s 26-year-old daughter, Kendri Marietta Marie Cesar, now 26, received scholarship money to attend Harvard Law School because of the Derby, Dailey said.
“I do it simply because my daughter benefitted (from the program),” Dailey said. “To me, it’s payback time. I really believe in education and it truly benefits our young people. Not only those in Juneau, but other communities too.”
About 800 to 900 people in Juneau pay $35 to participate in the derby each year to generate the scholarship money, Isturis said.
Dailey has pounded pavement and made phone calls to find sponsors for the derby, earning her the nickname “money hustler,” Isturis said with a smile.
Dailey says she hopes more residents and visitors fish in the derby or donate to help the cause.
“It’s a very worthwhile cause,” she said.
Whether more participants will hurt her first-place standing remains to be seen. She will also not be able to fish for the next week as she will be flying to Boston — her daughter is graduating from Harvard Law on Thursday.
“We’re very proud of what she’s done for herself,” a beaming Dailey said.
As for the Derby, when asked if she thought she would win, Dailey responded, “We’ll see.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at email@example.com.