Stuck in the waiting game

Derby leader finds it isn't always easy to be at the front of the pack

Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2002

If the Sixth Annual Spring King Salmon Derby ends next weekend and David Julian is still in the leader's spot, he won't need the service of a barber for a while.

"I'm just pulling the hair out of my head," Julian said last week. "I don't have much of it left. The stress is terrible."

Most anglers would enjoy sitting in the top spot of the derby, but Julian has found it a bit nerve-racking. He has been waiting since May 7 for somebody to top his 41.8-pound king salmon, but so far nobody as come close.

"Most of the people at work are harassing me," said Julian, who is employed by Madsen Development. "They're coming up to me at work saying that the radio just announced someone beat my fish. Then I find out they're pulling my leg."

Julian says he's also had to deal with becoming an instant celebrity of sorts.

"There's people driving down the road honking at me, shaking their fists," Julian joked. "I don't really know what to think about the attention."

It's no secret Julian hooked into his whopper near False Outer Point since there were several witnesses. On that day, fishing boats crowded into the little bay and the rock jockeys littered the shoreline in great numbers while Julian, fishing with his brother-in-law Chris Fenn, trolled with a herring.

"The thing hit and it immediately stripped off all my line," Julian said. "So my brother-in-law got behind the wheel and we charged after it."

By the time they wore the fish out, they were halfway to George's Rock. But after all that, it wasn't until Julian got the fish into the boat that he realized how big his catch was.

"I gaffed him and jerked him over." Julian said. "I had no idea about the size of the fish until he was coming over - he just kept coming and coming. I quote Frank Lee, who caught that 89-pounder in Hoonah a couple years ago: 'You should have heard it hit the bottom of the boat.' "

Julian said he brought his catch back to False Outer Point to show off to the anglers on the beach, and then weighed it in at Jerry's Meats at 50.3 pounds in the round.

"It's bigger than anything I've ever caught, heck, it's bigger than anything I've ever seen," Julian said.

However, Julian is making no plans for the $8,000 in merchandise and prize money awarded to the derby winner. He thinks there is a very good chance someone will catch an even bigger salmon before the derby ends.

"I'm not counting any chickens until the eggs hatch," Julian said. "I think there is a good possibility that someone will beat it. I just hope they don't. If I get the $5,000, then I'll make plans."

This is not the first time Julian has been on the leaderboard of the spring salmon derby. In 1998, he placed 16th with a 29-pound king salmon he caught on the last day. It was the second fish Julian turned in for that derby. That fish knocked the first fish he entered out of 30th place, which paid out $500 in prize money.

"I didn't even claim my prize for 16th place because I was so sick to my stomach," he said.

Julian isn't giving up in this year's derby either. He says he's still fishing as much as he can, keeping an eye on the size of the salmon being pulled into neighboring boats.

"I've fished in all six derbies and I think it's a great thing," Julian said. "It's just going get a whole lot bigger too. Everyone's fishing for money - it's a war."

Jeff Kasper is a free-lance writer and former Empire sports reporter living in Juneau.

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