Before Brenda Carlson became a surprise $50,000 winner in a prize drawing after last weekend's Golden North Salmon Derby, she was happy to finish 21st with a 20.5-pound king, she said.
Turning in small coho was just something the gang on her boat did because it was right, she said. The fish are sold to raise money for scholarships in the Territorial Sportsmen's program. In return, people get tickets that are drawn for prizes at the awards banquet.
"We turned in 37 scholarship fish," said Carlson, who describes herself as a "worker bee" with clerical duties in the subsistence division in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The four people on her boat got the tickets as a team and they will share the prize as a team, she added.
One of the tickets was selected as an alternate for the chance at a $50,000 prize, sponsored by Kennecott Greens Creek Mining Company and Coeur Alaska-Kensington Mine Project. At Thursday night's awards banquet, no one claimed to have one of the tickets selected ahead of hers.
That left Carlson as one of two people who drew envelopes until they picked five of a kind, to determine the size of her prize. After picking four $500 and four $50,000 envelopes, among three each at $10,000 and $25,000, "I was shaking like a leaf," she said.
The next envelope won her the $50,000 prize. But she said Friday it wasn't hers. In the morning she visited with an accountant to see how she could divide it between the three other people on her boat - David Hildre, Scott Robinson and Larry Davies.
"We have an agreement, if you get a prize, it's yours," she said. The award for her 20.5-pound king, with a $335 value, will mostly go back into the commercial fishing boat she bought a month ago.
But this was different.
"We always combine all the expenses," Carlson said. There's bait, and fuel. Someone picks up the food, someone else gets the beverages.
The scholarship fish were turned in together, and she was holding the tickets, she added.
If that last envelope had been for $500, "heck, we would have just gone out to dinner and filled the boat up (with fuel)," Carlson said.
Carlson, who also teaches swimming between Labor Day and Memorial Day, coaches Juneau's Special Olympics swim team and is the current community director for Special Olympics, said she hopes that by drawing the big prize she will inspire others to donate scholarship fish.
"It's a great program," she said.
Tony Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.