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Empire Editorial: Fish on!

Posted: August 3, 2014 - 11:10pm

In less than a week, fishing boats of all shapes and sizes will take to the water. Vessels will spill out of Statter, Douglas and Amalga harbors as they head for a favorite fishing hole, reef or cove to take part in another year of Golden North Salmon Derby history.

Since its inception in 1947, nearly 70 years ago, this event has blossomed into something more than just a fundraiser for scholarships. It’s also become an iconic family event that underscores the ongoing importance of fishing as a resource, a source of subsistence and recreational activity in our community.

The derby isn’t what it used to be, however. Participation has been declining in recent years, not sharply or radically, but as a slow downward trend that has organizers concerned.

Some say it’s caused by poor weather. Others hypothesize it’s due to poor fish runs or a dwindling economy. Those are all potential reasons, but we wonder if it’s also caused by a new generation, one that’s used to getting all they need from a grocery store instead of our backyard oceans and forest.

It’s time to turn that around.

We know the weather isn’t always blue skies for the derby, especially in recent years. We understand deer hunting season just opened for bucks in our area, and how expensive running a boat for three days can be. But this event isn’t just about catching and turning in fish. It’s about Juneau’s history, about celebrating a resource that helped build this community, about cultivating family memories. And let’s not forget how the derby supports local businesses and, of course, creates educational opportunities for our youth.

Oh, let’s just say it: The Golden North Salmon Derby is also about the opportunity to win some pretty great prizes (which may help offset those boat expenses). This year, Territorial Sportsmen, Inc. has organized an event offering more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. The support from tickets sales and participation will help raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Territorial Sportsmen Scholarship Foundation, which has provided more than $1.5 million is scholarships to Juneau students since 1953.

Tickets, which must be validated by a derby official before heading out on the water, can be purchased at Harri Heating and Plumbing, Western Auto and Marine and De Hart’s for $40 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 through 12. For the full prize list and all the rules and regulations, look for the official Golden North Salmon Derby guide inserted into the Juneau Empire and Capital City Weekly on Wednesday, Aug. 6.

There’s some sound advice included in the Territorial Sportsmen’s welcome letter in the guide: “As you head out on the water, be sure to go slow and observe the no-wake safety zones in Douglas, Auke Bay and Amalga harbors. With the potential for more than 400 vessels and up to 2,000 people on the water over the weekend, we want make your safety a priority. Please check the maps of the safety zones, be courteous to all boats that are around you and don’t risk disqualification by going too fast!”

The Juneau Empire and the Capital City Weekly will be on the water, giving Facebook and Twitter followers play-by-play updates on the derby. Look for us in the Melino’s Marine Services, Towing and Salvage boat, our guide sponsor for 2014.

May this year’s derby be better than years’ past; may the fish be plentiful and the participation prolific.

It’s time to ready those lures and tune up those motors — derby days are here! We’ll see you on the water.

For more information on this year’s Golden North Salmon Derby, go online to http://www.goldennorthsalmonderby.org.

• Empire editorials are written by the Juneau Empire’s editorial board. Members include Publisher Rustan Burton, rustan.burton@juneauempire.com; Director of Audience Abby Lowell, abby.lowell@juneauempire.com; Managing Editor Charles L. Westmoreland, charles.westmoreland@juneauempire.com; and Asst. Editor James Brooks, james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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