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Tina Bergam became only the second woman ever to win the 13th Annual Spring King Salmon Derby on Sunday. The winning fish was 34.75 pounds and was caught May 9.
"It was a long month," said Bergam. "I never expected it but always hoped for it, so it feels great."
She described the winning catch: "I knew it was a big fish. It jumped and it came out of the water several times and I fought it for a long time and I thought, 'OK, this is bigger than what I'm used to,' but never thought it was the winning (catch) until we went and weighed it and thought, 'Wow, that's good,' but always thought that somebody else would top it."
She credits her win to the fishermen who caught bigger fish, but didn't buy derby tickets. She attributes the catch to her father, who died in December.
Bergam will receive $3,025 in cash and an additional $3,724 in prizes. The prizes include $1,600 in two Alaska Air mileage tickets, a 2009 - 2010 season pass from the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and a gift certificate to Vito & Nick's Pizza.
"I don't have any major plans," Bergam said about the prize money. "Probably actually do something fun. Do a real vacation somewhere fun and enjoy the (privacy)."
Bergam is a Juneau resident and a long-time angler who has competed in past derbies. She placed 26th in the 2005 derby with a 28.5 pound fish.
She recently purchased her own boat, a 20-foot Sportsman Chris Craft, and caught the winning fish while trying out a new area in the Tee Harbor Breadline between Tee Harbor and the Shrine of St. Therese.
"I just think it's really cool that another female won," said derby coordinator Leslie Isturis. "The only other female winner we had was in ...1998, she had a 41-pounder, Marion Ezzre, so for Tina to go out and buy her own boat and do her own thing and finally be able to do fishing the way she wanted ... was really cool."
The top four runners-up were Robert Hurley at 33.6 pounds, Darin Fagerstrom at 31 pounds, Gary Hedges at 30.55 pounds and Gary Isturis at 30.45 pounds.
The derby ran from May 1 to 31 and had an unusually high participation rate. The derby averages about 800 entrants, but this year there were more than 900 and a good turnout of donors, given the economy's state, said Isturis.