Andres "Buddy" Soriano earned a big paycheck for taking the month of May off from his postal service job.
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The longtime Juneau resident walked away with $16,370.27 in cash and prizes for catching a 34.6-pound fish to win the 10th Annual Spring King Salmon Derby sponsored by Tlingit-Haida Central Council, derby officials confirmed Wednesday night.
"I usually take May off ever since I've worked for the postal service," Soriano said.
He said he has been taking the month off for nearly 25 years to take full advantage of the world-class king salmon fishing in Southeast Alaska.
Soriano clung to the lead nearly all month after catching the Chinook off the rocks at False Outer Point on May 6. The monthlong derby ended at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Soriano won by a small margin, beating out Fred Wigg's 34.05-pound king by just more than half a pound. Both salmon were caught on the same day.
Now that he has won the derby, Soriano said he is not sure what he will do with the thousands of dollars he has earned during his vacation.
"I know I want to buy a better pole and a better reel. That's what's going to happen first," Soriano said.
He said he plans to save enough to cover the taxes and then let his wife figure out what to do with the rest.
The derby not only provides thousands of dollars in prizes, it also provides thousands of dollars for scholarships each year.
Derby coordinator Leslie Isturis said more than 1,200 tickets were sold this year, and they will go toward supplemental scholarships for Alaska Native students to pursue a higher education. She said about $35,000 is given away in scholarships annually.
Derby founder Archie Cavanaugh said that as a former teacher it is encouraging to see local kids pursue their educational goals.
"It's very gratifying to see the benefits of this derby go toward higher education for our Native kids," he said.
Cavanaugh said the annual event is also about fishing and families.
"What's most appealing to me in this derby is about watching the community come together under the umbrella of the derby," he said. "And that's what this derby is all about."
Pat Costello, who placed 11th with a 29.2-pound king salmon, said he will remember fishing in this derby with his twin 2 1/2-year-old sons for years to come.
"It was the boys' first time out on a boat and they got to see a salmon caught and I think for me that was one of the best fishing trips I'll ever go on," he said.
Costello, who grew up in Juneau, said 2006 will also be memorable because it's the first time he has won a prize in a salmon derby.
"I had one on one year that was pretty big and it got off right at the boat, right when my dad was going to net it, and that was it," he said.
He said it's fun to finally make the winners' list, though he didn't do anything special to get there.
"I guess it gives you a little bit of bragging rights over your buddies," he said. "But like I said, it's just luck."
Soriano also acknowledged that luck was a big part of his winning the derby. He said anyone could have caught that fish.
"It takes patience," he said. "You have to put the hours in and you have to learn by fishing."
Isturis said there were a lot of dedicated anglers fishing the derby this year.
"There were more guys out there for longer lengths of time - people taking more time off," she said. "They were able to go out there and fish for longer hours and enjoy the sun."
Isturis said there were also a lot of dedicated supporters and sponsors this year.
"I think people are becoming more familiar with us and I hope they realize that it's a good community event for everyone," she said.
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