With 14 days left of competition in the 8th Annual Spring King Salmon Derby, Robert Reid is leading the pack of anxious anglers with a 33.7-pound chinook he caught May 10 near Funter Bay.
Using "standard bait" on "a regular ol' salmon pole," the longtime Juneau resident said it took 10 to 15 minutes to reel the fish on to the 48-foot trawler Fair Lady.
When asked whether this would be the derby's winning fish, Reid replied, "I don't think so. I didn't figure I'd be holding on to it this long."
Having placed in the middle of the pack a couple of years ago with a chinook of similar size, Reid said he is planning on heading out on the water again to improve his chances of winning.
Reid said he only has one piece of advice for fellow competitors.
"Stay home until after the derby," he said, laughing, "and give me a chance."
Derby coordinator Leslie Isturis said she has heard of several anglers with possible top-contending kings, including a 37-pounder and a 42-pounder, but they were ineligible because they lacked derby tickets.
"What's 30 bucks compared to 9,500 bucks?" she said. "Guys, you got to go buy your tickets. They're all over town."
As of last count, there have been 874 derby tickets sold, compared to approximately 900 sold all of last year, Isturis said.
"We have given out more ticket booklets to vendors than we have in previous years," she said.
Sponsored by the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Alumni Scholarship Assistance Program, the derby runs from May 1 to May 31 and costs $30 for an entry ticket. All proceeds go toward supplemental scholarships for Native students.
Isturis said the derby is going pretty smoothly. A few last-minute surprises caught the derby staff off-guard, she said, but with a little extra work everything was taken care of.
The day before the derby began, Isturis learned from State of Alaska Weights and Measures that two of the four weigh stations did not have proper scales. She was told that anglers would not be able to weigh in at De Hart's Auke Bay Store or Alaska Seafoods. She said Jerry's Meats in the Mendenhall Valley, and Taku Smokeries downtown are the lone stations for this year's derby.
"I kind of wish he would have let us known a couple months earlier, but you know, it all worked out," said Isturis.
Isturis also found out at the last minute that Sealaska wanted to provide an extra $2,500 for first place. The original first-place prize was $7,000, plus approximately $2,400 worth of merchandise. The derby winner is now slated to take home $9,500 cash plus $2,400 worth of merchandise.
Derby volunteers had printed 2,000-3000 derby information booklets before finding out about the weigh stations and extra cash. They spent the final hours before the derby inserting flyers into the booklets.
"But we're doing good and having a good time," said Isturis.
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.