Winters wins salmon derby with 35-pounder

Fewer fishermen and even fewer fish reported for 62nd event

Posted: Monday, August 11, 2008

The 62nd Golden North Salmon Derby came to a close at 6 p.m. on Sunday, and Sheldon Winters' 35-pound king was the unofficial winner.

Official results will be available after a verification meeting on Tuesday. Once the results are verified, Winters will win $15,000 in prize money for his fish.

Winters celebrated the win by going to the Squires Rest and buying a round of drinks for everyone in the bar.

"I've been fishing with these two fishing buddies for almost 25 years," Winters said. "We've been through rain, wind, broken down boats. We have fished for a long time for this."

Mitchell Horn and Mark Pusich are his fishing buddies. The men over the years talked about how they would spend the derby prize if they ever won, Winters said, and agreed to share the money.

"So I'm sharing some with (my fishing buddies)," he said. "My wife and my kids are already asking how much is theirs."

Donna Vargas placed second with a 27-pound king salmon, and David Hildre placed third with a 26-pounder.

Fish turned in for the derby are sold to raise money for scholarships sponsored by the Territorial Sportsmen. Nearly 250 scholarships have been awarded since 1947, according to the Golden North Salmon Derby Web site.

Fewer people fished in the derby this year, said organizer Susan Listberger.

About 1,500 people fished in the three-day event, she said. "Normally we have closer to 2,000."

Fewer fish were turned in this year, and volunteers said they noticed fewer coho salmon caught.

"At Auke Bay, they may (in previous events) have seven or eight totes of fish in a day. This year it's just been two or three totes," Listberger said.

Workers at the Auke Bay weigh-in station packed three half-empty fish totes with ice one hour before the end of the derby on Sunday.

Kami Bartness, who has volunteered for six years, said fishing was slow this year.

"It's been slower today than the last couple days and the last couple of days were very slow," Bartness said.

Her family is one of many in Juneau that have benefited from derby scholarships.

"My dad was the third recipient of the scholarship fund in 1956, and it put him all the way through school," Bartness said.

She said her father, Olaf Bartness, used a derby scholarship of $600 per year to pay for books and tuition to earn an engineering degree from the Oregon Institute of Technology.

"He wouldn't have been able to go to school without the Territorial Sportsmen," Kami Bartness said.

There were 12,000 pounds of coho salmon turned in last year, and 30,000 pounds in 2006, Kami Bartness said.

Officials did not know this year's amount at press time, but Bartness said it would be less than last year.

"There's a lot of people fishing, (but) the run is late this year and there's not a lot of fish around," she said. "It's a sad story this year but we appreciate all the fish we get."

Some fishermen said new regulations that went into effect on Aug. 1 also reduced the number of kings turned in during the event.

Out-of-state fishermen are not allowed to keep a king salmon less than 48 inches long, while Alaska residents can't keep one less than 28 inches.

The bag limit for king salmon anglers is one fish per day.

"We didn't catch any keeper kings," said Martin Loefflad, who came from Seattle to fish in the derby.

None of the fish caught in this year's derby was over 48 inches.

"That's probably a 50-pound king," said Loefflad's fishing buddy, John Kingeter, who is from Anchorage. "The last time we've seen one of those was in the 1960s. I think that's a huge deterrent to non-residents coming from out of state to enjoy the derby."

While some people enjoy fishing the derby, other Juneau residents volunteer their time to make the derby happen.

Four generations of Bob and Peggy Cartmill's family have volunteered for more than 45 years. It started with Peggy Cartmill's parents, and she passed the tradition on to her children and grandchildren.

"It is a family tradition because we support the Territorial Sportsman and the scholarships, and we believe in the scholarship for young people," she said. "We have devoted our lives, so to speak, to organizations that support the youth of our community, and we are happy to do that."

This year's derby was dedicated to Norma Jean McCorcle and Elaine Vuille.

They came to Alaska in 1952 and have volunteered at the Tee Harbor dock for 56 years.

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