Andres "Buddy" Soriano is working hard during his monthlong vacation.
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The 56-year-old postal worker took the month of May off to fish the 10th Annual Spring King Salmon Derby. Soriano, who is in first place with a 34.6-pound king, was at the rocks of False Outer Point on north Douglas Island at 3 a.m. Thursday.
"I probably stay out here 12 to 14 hours a day," he said.
Soriano said he doesn't spend too much time worrying about his derby-leading king, because he's too busy fishing.
"I sleep hard when I'm home," he said. "I can't even think about it at all. I'm asleep in 15 minutes and I'm back up in four hours. So I don't worry about it."
False Outer Point was bustling with hard-working anglers Thursday afternoon - with dozens of people on the rocks and a dozen boats trolling just off shore. Crows picked at nibbled herring bait and king salmon guts on the rocks as fishing nets stood propped against boulders to be ready on a moment's notice.
Don Wood was out fishing in the derby on Thursday for the first time this season. He didn't fish last year because of an illness, and said it felt great to be back at False Outer Point around the derby spirit.
"It's a nice environment after you come down once and you figure out everybody's friendly," Wood said. "They'll help you and they're right there with the net and everything if you get one. It's kind of like going to see the family for the holidays or something."
Derby founder and director Archie Cavanaugh said the annual fishing event is all about family, friends and fishing. As the director of the Vocational Training & Resource Center, Cavanaugh created the derby in the 1990s for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska's Alumni Scholarship Program to help encourage students to pursue a higher education. The monthlong derby ends May 31.
"There is a lot of camaraderie there with the fishermen," he said of False Outer Point. "Some of them, maybe older guys, they want to catch a king salmon and they're so proud that there are four people with nets in hand to help catch that king. So it's really great to see the bonding on the rocks and on the boats."
Renato Lumba, who also took a vacation to maximize his time fishing for the derby, hooked into a 20-pound-plus king at False Outer Point on Thursday.
"For me it's fun - I enjoy it," he said.
Lumba said he might can the salmon, his seventh king this year.
Josh Hamilton, 31, said he has yet to catch a king this season but plans to keep trying for the rest of the month. He said going to False Outer Point is still enjoyable even if he doesn't catch a king.
"I just like the fact that everyone out here helps each other out and watches out for one another," Hamilton said. "There's a lot of courtesy out here. It's kind of cool."
Wood said it would be nice to see more young anglers heading out to the rocks to learn some new tricks of the trade from the older fishermen.
"I'd like to see more young people going ahead and trying it - being outdoors and getting in touch with nature," he said. "The eagles are here and all the birds, it's great. There are even marmots here in the morning."
Soriano said the fish aren't biting as frequently as they were earlier this month.
"We probably already had two peak runs and usually there is four or five," he said. "All the fish we're seeing now are little feeder fish."
According to the latest Alaska Department of Fish and Game sport-fish report, it took anglers on boats 38 rod-hours to land a king last week. The report said during the same week last year it took 81 rod-hours, while the five-year average is at 40 rod-hours.
Soriano came away empty-handed Thursday morning but is still searching for the elusive bigger king. He has caught 11 so far this season.
"I know there is bigger fish out there," he said, adding that his leading fish will likely be surpassed in the coming weeks by a 40-pounder.
"I think it will be a 42-point-something," he predicted of the derby-winning spring king.
Hamilton said catching a winning king takes a lot of patience or luck.
"Ask people a lot of questions and put a lot of time into it," he said. "The only way you're going to catch anything is by putting in a lot of time and effort."
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