Spring King Salmon Derby winner Joseph Castillo had a driving purpose each day he went out fishing at False Outer Point on Douglas this month - and it wasn't to win the $8,200.94 in cash and prizes.
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"I fish for a purpose, and like most people out there, I do it to fill the freezer," he said. "Once I'm out there, I'm focusing on fishing."
Castillo caught his prize-winning 38.2-pound chinook on May 12 and held on to the lead for nearly three weeks to win the month-long 11th annual Spring King Derby on Thursday night. He said he has mixed emotions about his victory because this season has been less than spectacular for most anglers.
"It's been hard to maintain motivation and determination to go out there," Castillo said. "You wake up each morning and ask yourself if you really want to stand out there for hours on end."
This year's derby did not have as many participants as in years past, which may be due to the increase of ticket costs, derby coordinator Leslie Isturis said. After considering it for several years, derby organizers decided to raise the price from $30 per ticket to $40, she said.
"We did raise the ticket amount, but we did make more money," Isturis said.
Nearly 1,100 people participated this year, she said, down from 1,232 participants last year.
"I was a little bit scared that we would lose a lot more people than we did," Isturis said.
The cost increase didn't bother lifelong Juneau resident Bob Lupro, who participated in his first Spring King Derby this year. A gilled and gutted 34.4-pound king salmon he caught at False Outer Point on Douglas was good enough to earn him third place.
"I haven't fished in about 10 years," Lupro said. "I just stopped by to see if there was anything out there."
The fish provided him with a good angling tale, as well as $3,277 in cash and prizes.
"I think it is the biggest one I've ever caught on a sport rod," Lupro said, adding that he used to catch bigger salmon as a commercial fisherman. "It's quite a catch."
Lupro said his first spring derby was full of excitement.
"It was a great experience - total luck," he said.
The extra revenue resulting from the increased ticket prices is exciting for derby coordinators because it means more money will be put into education, Isturis said.
All proceeds from the annual event go toward education scholarships for Alaska Native students as part of the Alumni Scholarship Assistance Program through the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.
"Because we made that much more money we will have that much more to give up," Isturis said.
Derby officials were able to give 92 students $300 each with the money they raised from last year's event.
"You are making money for kids to be able to go to school and they so appreciate it because it is so unexpected every time," Isturis said.
The money raised from this year's derby will be evenly split among all eligible students who apply for the scholarships, she said.
The extra money will likely mean larger scholarships for each student, derby official and founder Archie Cavanaugh said. With each passing year the price of higher education increases so each extra dollar is beneficial to the scholarship recipients, he said.
"We didn't sell as many tickets as we did last year, but we're still very pleased with participation," Cavanaugh said. "I have an overall feeling that the derby this year was very well received."
Derby officials also decided to decrease the first-place cash award from $10,000 to $5,000 to spread it among the top five finishers. This year the second place winner received $3,000 in cash, third earned $2,500, fourth got $2,000 and fifth place took home $1,500 in cash.
Awards will be presented at 6 p.m. Monday at the Vocational Training & Resource Center at 3239 Hospital Drive.
Castillo said he will keep going back to his fishing spot to keep filling his freezer.
"It will be more leisurely fishing than the way it has been for the last month," he said.
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