David Julian can relax now, and he can afford to visit his mother in Oregon, and he can bring her some smoked salmon.
Julian won the top prize of about $8,000 in cash and merchandise in the Spring King Salmon Derby, which ended Friday evening, for a fish he reeled in on May 7. It weighed 41.8 pounds gutted and gilled, and 50.3 pounds in the round.
"It's a great relief off my shoulders, no question about that, " Julian said Saturday. "I feel real good at this point. I've been pulling my hair out of my head for several weeks."
Native students also were big winners in the derby, which attracted about 800 anglers, the most in its six-year history, derby officials said.
Tlingit-Haida Central Council sponsors the May derby, which funds scholarships for Natives. The number of entrants topped the 623 participants in 2001, the previous high, which paid for 70 scholarships of $200 each.
Anglers paid $30 this year to participate. All of the roughly $24,000 in ticket sales will go toward $200 scholarships, said Archie Cavanaugh, who directs the Tlingit-Haida Alumni Scholarship Assistance Program.
Prize money and merchandise prizes are donated by businesses and organizations, Cavanaugh said. And the Tlingit-Haida Central Council covers the expenses of running the derby.
"It's been more successful every year," Cavanaugh said. "We've attracted more participants and generated more excitement locally than we've ever had."
Julian caught his king near False Outer Point. When the fish hit, it stripped his line, and Julian's brother-in-law, Chris Fenn, got behind the wheel of Julian's 17-foot boat and charged after it, eventually wearing down the behemoth.
Julian said Saturday he would split the cash prize of $5,000 with Fenn and probably would use his portion to visit his mother in Oregon. Julian said he couldn't have reeled in the winning king without Fenn.
"When it comes to fish of that caliber it takes two men to get it into the boat," Julian said. "If it was one man you'd be standing there sucking on your fist with a seized-up reel."
Julian fished about 20 days of the derby, including Friday, because he didn't think his fish would remain in first place. It was a good month for kings, he and other anglers said.
"Phenomenal," Julian said. "It's definitely a bumper year, and a lot of large fish, too."
How good was it? Cavanaugh said his 6-year-old granddaughter Chloey, who wasn't fishing in the derby, nailed a king salmon with a toy Danny Dinosaur rod and 6-pound line "like a thread." "We fought that king for about 20 minutes - never landed it," he said.
The 30 heaviest kings, weighed after being gutted and gilled, win prizes in the derby. They ranged from Julian's 41.8-pounder to Joe Castillo's 30.7-pound king, which was worth $500 in cash.
"It's bigger fish no doubt than in previous years," said Cavanaugh, although the derby in most years weighed fish in the round, making comparisons with this year difficult.
Greg Isturis placed second with a 38.7-pound king caught May 25. Third place went to Robert Smith with a 37.4-pounder. Five of the top 30 spots were filled in the last week of the derby. John Larson finished 29th with a fish he weighed in at 4:55 p.m. Friday, about 2 1/2 hours before the derby closed.
The derby was dedicated to people who serve in the armed forces, Cavanaugh said. The derby will award $100 to Walter Sperl, 85, for being the oldest military veteran to enter a fish. He turned in a 20.4-pound king Tuesday afternoon. Cavanaugh said two other vets would win consolation prizes.
The derby will hold its awards ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Vocational Training and Resource Center at 3239 Hospital Drive.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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