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Ashby's 29-pound king leads derby

Posted: Sunday, August 06, 2006

All that's left for Sonny Ashby is to fish and wait.

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And wait and wait and wait.

The 26-year-old co-owner of Alaska Plumbing & Heating led the 60th annual Golden North Salmon Derby as of 6 p.m. Saturday with a 29.1-pound king salmon he caught that morning and turned in to the official weigh-in packer. The three-day tournament ends at 6 p.m. today.

At stake for the winner is $15,000 from the Territorial Sportsmen, Inc., and $1,265 in prizes.

"I remember last year," Ashby said. "It was down to the last hour and (Debbie White) came in (with the 32.9-pound winner).

"I'm pumped up a little bit; I'm breathing heavy," he said. "We've turned the phones off and turned the radios off and we're staying out of the radar. A couple of our friends hate us because of it."

Ashby was fishing on the "Whale On," a 30-foot fiberglass boat, with his father, Bill, and their friend, Jim Satko.

Bill Ashby was feeling good about a 20.3-pound king he turned in at the packer Saturday morning to tie with Rose Risley. But moments later, Stephen Drake dropped off a 21.4-pounder. That sent the "Whale On" back to the bite, where Sonny Ashby quickly landed the 29.1-pound beast.

"We came back within half an hour and (the derby officials) were all looking at us," Bill Ashby said. "We're trying not to count, trying not to get too excited. We know we're still beatable."

Sonny Ashby was born in Juneau and has been visiting each summer since 1994. A devout Christian, he's been a full-time resident since last May.

Bill Ashby has been fishing in the derby since 1970 and held second place for two days in 1989. In the last hour of the derby, a late weigh-in knocked him back in the pack.

"We know there's that spoiler possibility," he said. "But it's really worth the adrenaline shot."

Sonny Ashby's catch was a crushing, though not surprising, blow to the hopes and dreams of Jerry Godkin Jr., who led after Friday with a 23.8-pound king he nabbed near South Shelter Island.

Godkin was in third place as of 6 p.m. Saturday. Second-place Jenny Harris turned in a 23.9-pound king Saturday at the Auke Bay weigh-in.

"At least I got one day of fame," Godkin said. "Having fished in a lot of previous years, I just told everybody, 'Okay, this is a short-lived thing.' There's going to be bigger fish and tomorrow's still another day."

Godkin, 49, has fished in "35 to 40" derbies. He placed second and won $5,200 in 1998 with a 29.3-pound king, 1.1 pounds smaller than Michael Scott Kelley's winner.

This year, Godkin was fishing off a 24-foot Osprey brought over from Sitka by Jack Owens, who turned in a 20.6-pound king Friday. Owens' son, Todd, reeled in a 21.1-pound king Saturday.

Godkin has already won at least $100. Western Auto Marine pays $100 for buying a derby ticket at their store and catching the biggest fish on one of the three days.

"(Saturday) was a pleasant day other than the rain," he said. "It was virtually calm. I left the house with rain gear this time. I paid the price (Friday) of getting a little bit wet."

Despite the rain and wind, the Auke Bay weigh-in reaped at least 4,500 pounds of scholarship fish on Saturday. The packer had at least that much, fish-handling chair Nick Yurko said.

"I'm not sure how many have come in at Amalga Harbor, but it sounds like they're coming in pretty hot and heavy," Yurko said. "I don't think the weather deterred a lot of people from getting out and we still have (Sunday). It's looking good for the derby so far."

Sam Cartmill, 9, caught the derby's biggest coho as of 6 p.m. Saturday. The 18.3-pound whopper was one of four cohos that he hauled in aboard the "Fissues," Kevin and Cindy Burchfield's boat. The smallest of the cohos weighed 13 pounds. Cartmill was fishing with his dad, Jim, and his grandfather, Bob.

"We had fun," Bob Cartmill said. "The wind wasn't a factor. It was blowing southeasterly, maybe a little foot or a foot-and-a-half swell. It was raining awfully hard."

Cartmill, a former 25-year commercial fishermen and the facilities/property chair for the derby, has fished in more than 40 of the tournaments.

"(A 29.1) is big for the last few years," he said. "Back in the 60s, we used to get some that were 59 pounds. About 10 or 12 years ago, my wife caught one that was 25.5, and she ended up in fifth place with it."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com



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