Spring King Derby: Big ones are waiting, so are the fishermen

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2007

It looks like prize-winning salmon may be trying anglers' patience during this year's 11th annual Spring King Derby.

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Weekly surveys by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show it took an average of 64 rod-hours to land a king salmon during the week of May 14-20, up from the 5-year average of 37 rod-hours for the same period.

During the same week of 2006, the average was 34 rod-hours per Chinook.

The data is compiled by random sampling and does not necessarily mean that's how long it will take to make a catch, said Brian Glynn, Juneau area management biologist for Division of Sportfish.

"From one week to the next it can jump up and down," he said. So can fish, and there's no telling what the future holds.

The latest numbers do reflect a trend, Glynn said.

"It appears to be a little bit worse than average," he said. "However, it could also be running slightly late.

"The cold spring we've been having, and the cold local water temperatures, it appears it is delaying fish migrations."

During the previous week, May 7-13, the rod-hours were dramatically down, at 26 rod hours per Chinook, the lowest during that period during this decade. The 5-year average for that week stands at 42 rod-hours.

For the week of April 30 to May 6, there was a spike in the number of hours it took to catch a king, with 68 rod-hours this year, up from the 5-year average of 27 rod-hours.

"On average, catch rates have been poorer this spring," Glynn said.

The leading fish of the 11th annual Spring King Derby are slightly larger than the last couple of years. As the last weekend of the annual month-long derby began, Joseph Castillo was in the lead with a 38.2-pound king he caught on May 12.

That is larger than Andres Soriano's 2006 derby-winner, which weighed in at 34.6 pounds, the smallest king to win the derby since the competition began. Castillo's fish is also larger than Wally Frank's 2005 winning Chinook, which weighed in at 37.95.

The largest fish to win the spring derby was caught in 2004, when Robert Dilley hauled in a 51.4-pound king. The average first-place fish during the previous 10 years of competition is 41.52 pounds.

The size of Chinooks being caught in the Juneau area varies from year to year, Glynn said.

"King salmon in the ocean are found in various age classes," he said.

The fish can return anywhere from one year to five years after hatching in local rivers. Typically the fish returning after three years at sea make up most of the return each year, with the older fish tending to be larger, Glynn said.

"If you fish one spot any given day, you could go back the next day and it won't be the same," Glynn said. "That is how king salmon fishing is in Juneau."

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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