The Golden North Salmon Derby saw its biggest fish turned in since 1990 on Friday, but by the time the derby shut down Saturday night things were moving much slower.
Wayne Sutherland of Boise, Idaho, turned in a 36.9-pound king salmon at the packer anchored near the south of Shelter Island shortly after hitting the water on Friday morning. His fish is nearly nine pounds heavier than the second-place fish at the end of Saturdays action. Jim Whitecavage was the only fisherman to crack the top five Saturday, turning in a 28.1-pound fish at Douglas Harbor just before the derby shut down Saturday night.
If Sutherlands fish can hang on as the leader until the derbys closing time of 6 p.m. tonight, Sutherland will return to Idaho with $15,000 cash plus a belt buckle, jacket and trophy valued at another $975.
But, for the most part, few fish were being turned in. Volunteers stood around chatting, playing cards or eating a snack to take the edge off their boredom. A few others took another route, finding corners on their respective floats to grab a few Zs.
I can not believe it took until the afternoon both days for us to get our first fish, JoAnn White, the coordinator for the Douglas Harbor derby station, said as one of her volunteers sat on one of the fish totes, staring off into space as the rain dripped down his slicker. Its been very slow today. We had one scholarship fish turned in and six fish weighed, a grand total of seven fish, turned in by 3 p.m. (A brief flurry of activity nearly doubled that total by 3:30.) Weve had more boats going past us than stopping. Yesterday, with the sun, we had two guys actually sleeping on the totes.
Brita Rice, coordinator of the Auke Bay Harbor derby station, said she also had a sleeper. This one actually climbed into the tote and pulled the lid shut, she said.
Larry (Buzzell, the derbys statistician) said last year the cutoff point for the top 100 was about 14.1 pounds at the end of the first day, Rice said. It was 10.5 pounds this year. I talked to him earlier this afternoon, and the cutoff point is just 12.2 pounds now. Theyre smaller and theyre not as many.
Even though things were moving slow on the fishing grounds, Sutherland didnt have to wait long to catch his derby leader. Sutherland was fishing with his sons-in-law and shortly after putting their lines in the water Friday morning Sutherland reeled in his lunker. Sutherlands king was the largest derby fish since Roger Drapeaux of Juneau won in 1990 with a king weighing 55.0 pounds.
Sutherland, who was fishing with brothers Bob and Ray Vidic of Juneau, spent most of Friday and Saturday out on the water and couldnt be reached for comment. Ray Vidic, who left the boat Friday afternoon so he could go to work, said the three were on Bobs boat trolling on the northeast side of Shelter Island when the fish struck shortly after theyd gotten their down-riggers with flashes and hoochies down about halfway into 200 feet of water.
It hit at 9:15 (a.m.) and we had it landed at 9:30, then we went to the packer, Vidic said. Wed agreed beforehand that Wayne would get the first fish, then Bob and I would flip (a coin) for the next one. Wayne was driving the boat while Bob and I were setting out lines when it hit. I felt sure wed hit bottom, but Wayne said Bob, I think weve got a fish. Bob took the wheel and I started reeling in the other lines while Wayne started bringing the fish in. Bob was able to back up on him, and its a good thing because hed nearly pulled all the line off.
The rest of the top six were all caught Friday, led by a 26.3-pounder turned in by 11-year-old Ryan Beason (at Douglas), followed by a 25.1-pound king caught by Carol Collins (Douglas), a 23.3-pounder caught by Frank Gillespie (Amalga Harbor) and a 23.0-pounder caught by Amber Christensen (Auke Bay). The second-largest fish caught Saturday was a 22.2-pound king caught by Brenda Carlson (Douglas), good for seventh-place overall.