Like clockwork each spring, a fishing village appears on the north shore of Douglas Island at False Outer Point.
It's crowded and slippery, with a host of variables that threaten to thwart any angler who snags a big king. But a spirit of camaraderie and a proven track record of fishing success bring people back to the rocky shore year after year.
"The feeling of community is much like a Fourth of July event," Spring King Salmon Derby coordinator Archie Cavanaugh said. "The boat people, the rock people, the little kids, the eagles, the seals it's a whole ecosystem."
"It's a cross-section of the community, with a common bond of coming out here and having fun," said rock regular Rudy Isturis Jr., who was bumped from 30th place in the derby on Saturday when his brother Greg jumped to second place with a 38.7-pound king.
David Julian's 41.8-pound king, caught May 7, remained atop the derby leader board as of Saturday afternoon, followed by Greg Isturis, Robert Smith (37.4 pounds), Louie Russo (36.4) and Gary Berry (35.9).
With just a few days to go in this year's spring derby, the rocks around False Outer Point are likely to be more crowded than usual through the rest of the holiday weekend. The derby closes at 7 p.m. Friday.
One of the regulars likely to be out there in the final days is Fred Wigg, whom many other anglers pointed to as one of the ultimate rock fishermen. Wigg, who has been shore fishing around False Outer Point for the past five years, has been known to arrive on the rocks at 2:30 a.m. and not relinquish his spot until 8 p.m.
Over the years, Wigg said he has brought in 27 kings from shore. He placed sixth in last year's spring derby and fifth in 1998. In July 1998, while fishing from shore near the DIPAC hatchery, he snagged a 56.77-pound king.
When fishing from the rocks, Wigg said you need "lots of herring to feed the flounder and the bullheads before you get your king." And for those who want to try fishing from shore, he suggested salting the herring to harden it.
"It holds up better with the bullheads and flounder picking at it," he said.
Aside from crowding in a few tight spaces as the tide rises, one of the obstacles to shore fishing at False Outer Point is contending with the flotilla of boats that congregate just off shore. Wigg said there is usually a general understanding between the two groups, an invisible line that prevent lines from being cut or crossed.
"Most of the people who come out on boats know to watch the people on the rocks and stay out of their casting range," he said.
On occasion, Wigg said, a boat will try to edge close to shore and disrupt the balance. But he said most boaters realize shore anglers are confined to that area, and are willing to give them some leeway.
Cavanaugh said the two groups have been getting along well this year.
"The boat people are giving the rock people a lot of slack," he said.
Rogue seals that threaten to grab fish as they are being reeled in also can pose problems, as well as fishermen crossing lines with neighboring shore anglers.
"People snagging each other, going over the top of each other it's something you've got to deal with," said Greg Isturis.
Rudy Isturis Jr. said despite the potential pitfalls, the fishing at False Outer Point is hard to beat.
"You really can't deny that this is world-class," he said.
Wigg said there is a core group that reunites on the rocks each spring.
"There's a lot of people you don't see until fishing season," he said. "It's kind of like a reunion. There's maybe 10 of us that are like a little family."
Although there's certainly competition for spots, Wigg said there's a welcoming atmosphere on the rocks and he encouraged newcomers to talk to the regulars.
"Come out with a good attitude and learn from the people who are out there," he said.
And for those who return year after year, like Rudy Isturis Jr., the benefits extend beyond catching a king.
"We've got some really great memories," he said. "Killer whales going by, people falling in the water. The fish are gone, but the stories are there."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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