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63rd salmon derby full of changes, new partnerships, big prizes

Posted: Saturday, August 01, 2009

Juneau's three-day, mid-August fishing contest with hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes is back for its 63rd year. The Golden North Salmon Derby kicks off this year on Friday, August 14 and runs through Sunday, August 16.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"It's older than the state by 13 years," said Susan Listberger, co-chair of the derby.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of statehood, there's a couple changes to this year's derby. There will be prizes for the top 50, instead of the top 100 fish.

"We reduced them down in honor of the state's anniversary and we also wanted to make our prizes better than they had been in years past," said Listberger.

There also will be four "high-five" fish. One worth $100,000, one worth $50,000 and two worth $25,000. In addition, a ticket sale drawing will allow ticket-holders a chance at $100,000 without having caught a fish or even setting foot on the docks.

There will be no tagged fish this year and no "packer," the boat weigh-in station by Shelter Island. Competitors will have to bring their fish to weigh-in station at the docks.

According to Listberger, by eliminating the packer "we will be able to donate more to the scholarships. Additionally, it will add more activity at the docks where volunteers await."

Listberger said that in recent years, the number of participants has gone down.

"(These) changes were made to try to get people excited about the derby again," she said.

While this year's derby will offer fewer prizes, they are certainly bigger and better than those of the past few years. Besides the $12,000 provided by the Territorial Sportsmen for the top fish, there are a variety of cash, gift certificate and merchandise prizes.

Also new this year is the partnership between the Territorial Sportsmen, the Juneau Empire and the Capital City Weekly.

"We thought it was a good opportunity to offer up our services and do what we can to help promote the ticket sales and the scholarships," said Todd Vodnansky, advertising director for the Juneau Empire and Capital City Weekly.

Vodnansky said to look for the "swag in the bag," the goodies that would be included in every bag handed out in conjunction with a ticket purchase.

"Businesses are including brochures, special offers and coupons," he said. "In the bag you'll also find the derby guide."

And when it comes to weighing in those prize catches, there are three weigh-in stations are available to participants: Auke Bay, Douglas Boat Harbor, and Amalga Harbor. Each station is open Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Only king and silver salmon are accepted in the derby. The fish caught in the derby are sold and the proceeds fund Territorial Sportsmen scholarships.

Tickets are $40 for adults and $10 for children younger than 12. Tickets are available at Alaskan & Proud, DeHart's, at the Fred Meyer customer service desk, Harri Plumbing & Heating and Western Auto-Marine.

The first Golden North Salmon Derby was held August 31, 1947, though it wasn't called the Golden North until a year later. Over the years, the derby has changed what kind of fish have been accepted, where the derby boundaries are, and how much money and prizes are awarded. But regardless of the changes over the years, the concept of a weekend of fishing, family and fun remains the same.

Notable winners of the derby include five-year-old Jody Pasquan who won in 1963 and Wayne Sutherland was the first non-Alaska resident to win the derby in 2000. Last year's winner was Sheldon Winters with a 35.6 pound king salmon.

Territorial Sportsmen, Inc. is the group that has organized the Golden North Salmon Derby since it's inception 63 years ago.

The Territorial Sportsmen is also involved with the Family Fishing Day held in June, maintains at least one Forest Service cabin a year, and is sponsor Hunter Safety Education program as well as being involved with both the construction and the maintenance of the indoor and outdoor shooting range. Territorial Sportsmen, Inc. promotes conservation and education about the outdoors and provides scholarships for graduating seniors in Juneau and throughout Southeast Alaska.



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