Longtime Golden North Salmon Derby participant Carlene Nore remembers being "drug out" fishing by her parents at a very young age. So it's no surprise she's taken her own children out "since they were babies."
"We just like to go out there and fish and see our friends and family who are out there," Nore said.
Nore, her husband and their three kids are among the many families hitting the water as a group during Territorial Sportsmen's 56th annual derby, which begins Friday. Some are intent on fishing to win, while others treat the event as more of a floating picnic with prizes.
"It's definitely something my family participates in and enjoys every year," said Nore, who will fish on the 24-foot Bayliner Classic, The Reeliable. "I can't remember a time when my family didn't participate."
She said three generations of her family will be part of this year's derby, including her parents and an uncle who will volunteer.
More than 3,000 people are expected to head out during derby weekend to compete for in excess of $80,000 in cash and merchandise. Last year's first-place winner was a family fisherman, 12-year-old Ryan Beason.
"You'll see all sizes of families out on the boats," said longtime derby fisherman Bill Morris, who has spent many derbies fishing with his son. "Some families will jam the boats to see how many can fish."
Morris said he has reeled in many fond memories over the years, including a year his son held the leader's spot for an exciting-but-brief two hours. Another year, he and his wife caught five fish, two big enough to place them on the top-100 list.
"It's a challenge to be able to go out and anticipate catching a big fish. It doesn't happen very often," Morris said with a laugh. "It's kind of rare to get a fish to compete. But I always like to compete."
He said he plans on taking his wife out on their 18-foot Lund skiff again this year and boasted, "Even a small skiff can go out and catch a big fish."
Vince Demuth, 1988 derby co-champion, said he will bring his two daughters out again this year to use their "lady luck" on his 22-foot Bell Boy dubbed The Chatahoochie.
"I have a lot of times that people try to get on my boat and I tell them that it's a family thing, and leave it open for them," said Demuth. "Family members always come up at the last minute, so I leave it open for that."
Demuth said he has many fond memories from the derby, including winning in the only year to ever deliver co-champions. The previous year while out with family, friend Ann Patricia Hudson caught the winning fish off his boat using a line he baited.
"I'm always happy to hear when someone I know gets on the ladder," he said. "I get just as much enjoyment seeing a friend win as I get winning."
Demuth, a member of Territorial Sportsmen, said derby prizes are great but the main purpose of the event is "to get young students involved in the outdoors."
"I do it for the kids," he said. "It's raising scholarship money, that's what it's all about."
According to the Territorial Sportsmen's Web site, the derbies have awarded $1.064 million to 201 students since the program's inception in 1953.
"I know a couple of people who got those scholarships and went on to do good," said Demuth.
Like his favorite singer, Alan Jackson, Demuth hopes his boat will be able to pull out another No. 1 hit, but he realizes, "It is just simply luck, but you do have to have your line in the water to win."
With or without family on board, Morris said it's a win-win situation.
"A lot of people look forward to the derby," said Morris. "It brings a lot of people together and helps with the local economy."
Eric Morrison can be reached at email@example.com.