Saturday morning was shaping up to be a normal Golden North Salmon Derby day for Carol Munro and her husband, Billy Cameron.
They were at Favorite Reef, just west of south Shelter Island, in the Bird Grinder, an 18-foot hardtop skiff that Billy's owned since 1984. They were fishing in 100 feet of water with two downriggers and a good-luck lure, a teal-green plug on loan from Billy's father, commercial fisherman Bill Cameron.
The water was calm, and the forecast seemed pleasant. It was that much better when Munro pulled up a big king salmon at 5:45 a.m.
Processed at the Auke Bay derby station, the fish weighed 26.5-pounds. And that's when the normalcy stopped for Munro and Cameron. After 24 hours of fishing, and few large kings, they were in the lead.
"He said, 'Carol, you have to enjoy it, every moment. It's not going to stay,'" Munro said. "And so we did. We enjoyed the moment. And it was pretty stressful."
Over the next 35 hours, the stress just got worse. But at approximately 6:30 p.m. Sunday, it was official. The 26.5-pounder held on to win.
With the victory, Munro, 45, a gardener for the state, earned $15,000. She and Cameron, 40, a sewer department employee for the city, are now thinking about a Hawaiian vacation. They have two kids, Rochelle, 19, and Hunter, 9.
"I can't believe it right now," Munro said.
"It's been an adrenaline rush, and I've lost my voice," she said, celebrating Sunday night at Eagles Aerie 4200. "It felt like I was waiting to get some kind of judgment from a court, like I was waiting for the jury to make a decision. I'm starting to feel a lot better. I got my shower, but I'm still rocking."
Munro's big fish was the tiniest winner in derby history. Joseph Junker held the previous record, winning the 1980 derby with a 27.5-pound king. Five champions in the past 57 derbies have weighed less than 30 pounds.
"I'm surprised that it won it, but that was the nicest fat boy I've seen in a long time," Cameron said. "It was a real pretty fish, and it's even prettier now."
The complete results were unavailable at presstime but will be posted at www.salmonderby.org. The total amount of fish caught during the three-day derby will be known today, said Nick Yurko, the derby's fish chairman. Taku Smokeries has not received the complete haul.
"Friday and Saturday were both good days," Yurko said. "(Sunday) was a bummer day. There were high winds in certain areas where a lot of people would want to go fishing. It wasn't as good as I wanted."
Munro and Cameron turned just one coho in Friday, but their luck began early in the day when one of their lines snared a massive, and unexpected, visitor.
"I tell you what, I thought I had the derby winner right there," Cameron said. "Until it sat on the bottom, and I said, 'Uh oh, this is a big ol' halibut."
The fish was 64-inches long and weighed 150 pounds. It took an hour to pull up, and they towed it the rest of the day.
"You ought to have seen Carol sink the shark hook in that thing," Cameron said.
They came in for the night at 9 p.m. Cameron was up until midnight, filleting and packaging the giant fish.
But there was little time to sleep. They woke up at 3:45 a.m. Saturday and left the house right at 4.
They drove to Auke Bay and put the Bird Grinder in the water. It took just 10 to 14 minutes to reach Favorite Reef. The rocky outcropping has been lucky for Cameron over the years. Last year was the first time in years that he didn't place. Two years ago, Cameron and Munro both placed.
"Favorite Reef has brought me a lot of money," Cameron said.
By 5 a.m. they had their two lines, with downriggers, probing about 100 feet deep. And at 5:45 a.m., a big bite caught them both by surprise.
"I didn't have her downrigger up, and I didn't have my pole up or my downrigger up," Cameron said. "I had to grab the pole, so it didn't get all wrapped up in the downrigger. Then I gave her the pole back and got her downrigger up. She got the fish behind the boat."
The big fish made a couple nice runs, but Munro needed just 15 minutes to bring it aboard.
Cameron thought it weighed 23 to 24 pounds, but as they cut through Smuggler's Cove on the way back to the Auke Bay weighing station, he thought it could weigh as much as 25.
They reached the station at 7:30 a.m. The official weight 15 minutes later was 26.5 pounds, 1.2 pounds more than the 25.3-pounder Robbie Piehl turned in Friday at Douglas.
"It felt good to be in first for a little while, but I told her when we hung it, "It's nice being in first, but there ain't no way this thing's going to win,'" Cameron said.
"There were a lot of tourists in town, and a lot of charter boats out fishing, and the week before this I know a lot of 30 pounds that were caught. My boss's brother caught a 32 or 34-pounder the week before that."
It was the third time that Bill Cameron's teal-green commercial plug has snared a derby placer.
"This one was the best one," Billy said.
Unofficial top 10 finishers, as of 9:17 p.m. Sunday - 1. Carol Munro, 26.5; 2. Robbie Piehl, 25.3; 3. Epvem Tovosian, 25.3; 4. Art Dunn, 25.1; 5. Timos Giamakidis, 24.6; 6. Dan Garner, 24.4; 7. Randall W. Bates, 24.0; 8. Renai Mielke, 23.2; 9. Michael Herrick, 23.0; 10. Ken Judson, 22.8.
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