Another slow Spring King Salmon Derby weekend concluded Sunday with Wally R. Frank Jr. holding on to the lead for the 20th day in a row.
At 4 p.m., DeHart's in Auke Bay had weighed two king salmon Sunday, three on Saturday. Jerry's Meats and Seafoods also reported fairly light traffic at its weigh station.
"It's average. They seem to be picking up a little bit," said Bob Smith, store manager. "For a five-year run, it's not that great. They may be slow coming in, but we may get hammered with them here. Sitka's getting thousands of them going through. It's a big year for them. Gilnetters are getting tons of fish on the Taku."
The derby ends at 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, and the angler with the biggest fish will win $13,299.59 in cash and prizes. The ninth annual event is sponsored by the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Alumni Scholarship Assistance Program, with all proceeds going to scholarships for Native students.
Frank caught his 37.95-pound leader on May 3, while fishing from the shore near False Outer Point. He caught it so late in the day, he had to wait until morning (7:10 a.m.) to weigh it at Jerry's Meats.
"I wish I could have weighed mine the first day," said Frank, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the state. "I'm hopeful, but I realize that some of the bigger fish are sometimes caught near the end."
In the first seven years of the derby (1997 to 2003), the top fish weighed between 40.6 and 42.5 pounds. Last year was the exception. Robert Dilley hooked a 51.4-pound king on the derby's final day.
"The last week in the derby there's a real flow that starts coming in," Smith said. "I would bet that Wally Frank's not going to be in first place, but there's a chance that he might."
Michael D. Smith took over second place at 12:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon with a 37.5-pounder he turned in at DeHart's.
"That's the first I heard about it, so I guess maybe I will start worrying a little bit more," Frank said. "There's still a week and a half."
Fred Hopkins, a longtime derby participant who works in the floor-covering business, reeled in a 29.35-pound king Sunday morning. He turned it in to Jerry's at 2:40 p.m.
"We weighed it as soon as we caught it, and of course, we don't believe our scales all the time but it turned out to be fairly accurate," he said. "We had a weight of 36, and it dressed out at 30. And by the time we brought it in it was 29.35."
Hopkins was making his second trip of the season on his 28-foot cruiser. He's caught one other fish, not big enough to place. And he's lost one, about the same size as his 29 pounder.
"I thought for sure we'd have a better catch right at this stage of the derby," Hopkins said. "I think (the 29.35-pound king) will stay in the top 30. They're down to one more weekend."
Between 1998 and 2004, the 30th-place fish weighed between 26.8 and 31.3 pounds.
The derby's three weigh-in stations are: Jerry's Meats and Seafoods (7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Sunday); Taku Smokeries (8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday); and DeHart's in Auke Bay (8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Sunday).
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.