When someone calls you “fishy” out on the waters, it usually means you catch a fish nearly every time your hook is cast out, trolled behind or resting on the bottom of the sea.
For local fisherman Richard McCormick, 83, the term “fishy” is a bit understated. McCormick landed two fish on the final day of the 2011 Golden North Salmon Derby. Not particularly sea-breaking news until the circumstances unfold. McCormick caught the two king salmon on the same line, same hook and at the same time.
“I thought I had the derby winner,” McCormick laughed. “It felt like it was a fighter.”
With two fish fighting on the line at the same time the weight would be exaggerated.
“It felt lively,” McCormick said. “One went one way and one went the other.”
McCormick’s derby had already been successful in terms of fish caught. The first day he landed three “door prize” kings near Point Bishop and on the second day five more kings followed him to town from the Waterfall area, taking some of the gillnet fleets’ future nettings.
So on the final day McCormick was hoping to break into the money part of the standings.
Leaving bright and early, McCormick, cousin Bill Andrews and nephew Glen McCormick, who was skippering the 35-foot Jubulee, headed to Doty’s Cove south of Marmion Island.
McCormick was trolling a small plastic squid hoochie, with two hooks about three inches apart. The hooks can be slipped along the line if being run through a herring for extra bait or just for spacing.
McCormick figures he must have trolled through a school of small Chinooks and somehow two went for the hoochie, each taking a bite out of a shiny hook.
“I thought, ‘Boy, I really have a good one here,’” McCormick said. “I think we must have trolled through a school of them. I was amazed when I first saw them.”
Once they broke into the light, the fishermen first thought they had caught another line with a fish on it. Then as the “king and queen” broke the surface it was evident what had happened.
“We think this is a first,” a derby official stated in a release. “We know of no fisherman landing two fish on the same line while sport fishing in the derby.”
After netting and posing with the unusual catch, McCormick released the pair of 25-inchers back into the water.
“Maybe they weighed 7 pounds each, wet,” McCormick grinned. “One went down Stephens Passage. The other went up Taku Inlet. Next year I am keeping them.”
Born and raised in Douglas, McCormick graduated from Douglas High School in 1946 and grew up fishing nearly every waterway in the area, including in the first Golden North Salmon Derby.
“I was just a kid,” McCormick said. “My aunt Kathleen Andrews took me out in Auke Bay. I don’t remember what we caught or how big or how many. I just remember we were fishing.”
An educator, McCormick was principal of Wrangell High School from 1962–65, assistant principal and principal of Juneau-Douglas High School from 1965–70, and superintendent of Wrangell Public Schools from 1970–77. He also studied, coached and taught at Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Nome and was inducted into the Alaska School Activities Association’s Alaska High School Hall of Fame in 2009. He also was awarded the ASAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Now Wrangell had some big kings,” McCormick said. “Those Stikine River kings are nice and shiny and huge.”
As for next year’s derby, McCormick says he plans to enter as always.
“Do they make hoochies with three hooks?” McCormick laughed. “I had a fun derby. It was fun being out there.”
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at email@example.com.