Kings aren't shrinking, they're just feeding

Posted: Saturday, August 01, 2009

Derby fish ain't what they used to be, say old-timers. And they're right - though it's no sign of impending doom.

Kate Golden • Juneau Empire
Kate Golden • Juneau Empire

The Golden North Salmon Derby keeps track of the heaviest fish caught each year since the derby started in 1947. And, looking at the data, it's been a long time since anyone caught a big one.

But there's good reason for it, reasoned Ron Somerville, a longtime derby organizer for the Territorial Sportsmen. He says it's all about timing.

"Most of the big fish here are caught in the spring," he said.

Until 1977, the derby was in the spring. But the Taku king fishery was in trouble then. So the Territorial Sportsmen moved the Golden North Salmon Derby later in the summer, to August. That means people are catching different fish. Smaller ones.

"You're talking about feeder kings instead of spawners," he said.

Somerville noted that although the size of the winning fish, which is always a king salmon, has shrunk, the later timing allows people to catch bigger silvers.

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