BY KLAS STOLPE
Brysen Mitchell was hooked to fishing at age five, when trips involved walking on the dock or along a stream. That led to five straight years of Golden North Salmon Derby fishing and the 12-year-old Mitchell hooked and landed a 26.8-pound King salmon to top the 2012 Golden North Salmon Derby field.
“I have fished a long time,” Mitchell said. “I really like it. I like to fish for halibut.”
Mitchell has caught a 25-pound halibut, but he likes to eat salmon more.
That hunger was apparent as the Mitchell fishing team began their derby mornings at 7 a.m., motoring a dingy out from their house to the family’s moored 28-foot Bayliner in Tee Harbor.
Brysen and dad Deven fished until 11 a.m. near South Shelter Island, catching one smaller coho before returning to pick up older brother Corbin, 14, who had spent the night at a friend’s house.
Corbin has placed twice in prior derbies (an 18 and a 17 pounder) and held the family bragging rights.
The three Mitchell boys began to troll again near South Shelter Island. Brysen baited a flayed piece of herring onto a single hook with an adjoining red hoochie and began “fishing,” the “catching” would come later.
“I am usually listening to my iPod when we are not catching anything,” Brysen said. “We were not catching anything most of the day.”
Time dragged on in the rain, until 6:45 p.m.
“I told them in 15 minutes we could go home,” Deven Mitchell said. “We were leaving at 7, one way or the other.”
Instead the pole, attached in its downrigger holder, took a dip and line started running out to an estimated 100-yards.
“A lot of line was going out,” Brysen said. “We had to turn around and troll towards it. It was taking a lot of line, I fought it for over 15 minutes.”
Mitchell said the reeling in was tiring and when the fish could be seen in the water there was another problem.
“You could see it was hooked in the side,” Brysen Mitchell said. “You could tell the hook could pop out at any second. That was pretty exciting.”
Although the fish was tired too, the current pushed a lot of torque against it and threatened to pull the hook out. Deven Mitchell walked to the front of the boat with the hand net as the fish dove and went under the vessel. As soon as the fish was netted on the other side the hook fell out.
“As soon as I netted it the hook fell out,” Deven Mitchell said. “It was that close. And the people fishing around us started clapping.”
Deven, a 1986 JDHS graduate, and Erin, an ‘89 alum, said that one of the best remembrances for them growing up in Juneau is the Golden North Salmon Derby.
“It is a big deal growing up in Juneau,” Erin Mitchell said. “The first thing I told him when he walked in the door was ‘call your grandpa Ken.’ You just think you are never going to win the derby. These guys have been getting up early, and they hate getting up early, and they have been fishing until the end.”
Brysen stated that Grandpa Ken was really excited.
“He was asking me where I caught it and what I used,” Brysen said.
The Mitchell fishing crew share all derby catches and winnings, including the $10,000 cash prize, which makes the outing less competitive and more of an enjoyable outing.
Brysen gets to keep an embroidered jacket and a belt buckle and plans to display the hoochie somewhere. He also was the recipient of a song that was made up by derby volunteers who are used to seeing the Mitchell’s in the derby.
“I really want to thank the derby volunteers for all they do,” Brysen Mitchell said. “And all the derby people.”
“My share of the money goes for a college fund,” Mitchell said.
Brysen Mitchell is a soccer player and avid skier, but with a 2012 derby haul of three Coho, three halibut, seven shakers and two legal kings, Mitchell stated he has a new passion.
“I am definitely fishing next year,” he said. “We ate the smaller King. It was awesome.”