Juneau's Vickie Perry spent two days listening to the radio until finally, at 6 p.m. Sunday, it was time for high fives and a group hug with her husband, John, and their friend William Bloodworth.
The 35.2-pound king salmon she caught Friday evening in 90 feet of water next to Favorite Reef near South Shelter Island held up more than two days and unofficially won the 57th Golden North Salmon Derby by two pounds Sunday night.
If the results are declared official, as they're expected to be, Perry will win $15,000 plus other prizes. This was her eighth derby. Results are online at www.salmonderby.org.
"It's unbelievable, because I think of all the people that have fished this derby for years," said Perry, a residential mortgage broker.
Perry's fish was the second-biggest winning catch since 1994. Only Wayne Sutherland's 36.9-pounder in 2000 weighed more.
Jarod Winnen, a 28-year-old structural engineer in Sherwood, Ore., who was born and raised in Juneau, unofficially placed second in this year's derby with a 33.2-pound king he caught Saturday afternoon. Shaun Lewis, 35, an employee for the city water department, placed third with a 30.8-pound king he caught Friday morning.
Perry's winning fish weighed 36 pounds on the scale aboard her boat, the Sunset Mist. It lost 12.8 ounces of water in the time it took to reach the weighing station at Auke Bay.
"It was pretty nervewracking the last two days," Perry said. "We had the radio on at all times and we counted down. Each report was one more hour that went by and put us closer."
Taku Smokeries reported receiving 14,280 pounds of fish on Friday, and 12,000 more on Saturday, said Nick Yurko, a derby official. Yurko estimated 10,000 more pounds was turned in Sunday. Overall, the action was slow Sunday and there was no change in the top 10.
The Perrys and Bloodworth have been fishing together in the derby for six years. John Perry and Bloodworth grew up together in Poplar Bluff, Mo., and have been friends since kindergarten. Bloodsworth placed 45th last year and John Perry has placed in the top 50 before. Vickie Perry had never placed in the top 100.
The Perrys are building a cabin on South Shelter Island and spent most of the derby working their way around Favorite Reef. They caught about 14 fish during the weekend on three lines - one for kings at 90 feet, another for kings between 60 and 30 feet and one more flat line for coho.
As is their tradition, they drew cards Friday. The person who selects the highest card reels in the first fish, the second highest card gets the next fish and they continue to rotate. The winner was the fifth or sixth fish they caught Friday.
"It's almost beyond words," John Perry said. "The last two days have been a nailbiter."
"I was the most comfortable out of all of them," Bloodworth said. "They refused to plan ahead or expect to win, but when I saw the size of the fish and looked back over the years, I knew they had made it."
The Perrys may spend the $15,000 on upgrades to their boat. Vickie Perry dedicated the victory to her late father, Lee Ray Pickrell, a former charter fisherman.
"(Pickrell) got to fish one derby up here," she said. "He's not with us now, otherwise he'd be here every Salmon Derby. I know he would just be overjoyed and proud."
Winnen used to fish in the derby when he was younger but hasn't entered for six to eight years. He's back in Juneau for a week and fished with his wife, his stepfather and his two brothers aboard his stepfather's boat, the Silver Bay.
Winnen caught his second-place fish in between Shelter, South Shelter and Admiralty Islands and turned it into the Auke Bay weigh station at 4:55 p.m. Saturday.
"It was definitely the biggest salmon I've ever caught," Winnen said. "You don't get those 30-pounders every day."
Lewis, a Juneau resident since 1978, caught his third-place fish Friday morning in 120 feet of water near Favorite Reef off South Shelter Island.
Lewis and friend Sherman Brown hooked into a 17.5-pounder and the 30.8-pounder within 30 minutes after launching Friday. They found the packer boat by Coghan Island and turned the fish in at 9:10 a.m.
"I was quite excited the first day," said Lewis, who estimated he's entered about 15 derbies. "I didn't think it would hold on."
Lewis and Brown caught four kings Friday off Lewis' 21-foot Glasply boat. They didn't catch much Saturday and Sunday. Lewis has no radio on his boat and had to rely on friends, passing by on their boats, to keep him apprised of the standings.
George Davis, 76, placed fourth with a 30.5-pound king he caught Friday morning near Douglas Island. He was the oldest person to catch the biggest salmon. He's fished in every Golden North Salmon Derby since moving to Juneau in 1966.
Davis and his son-in-law, Rick Smith of Albuquerque, N.M., decided to troll near Douglas in their Bayliner Trophy after listening to the Department of Fish and Game's local telephone fish report.
"I catch a lot of fish every derby, but they never amount to anything in weight," said Davis, a former commercial fisherman and federal employee who grew up in Kake. "It's a good feeling. I really enjoyed myself out there."
There was no three-peat for two-time defending derby champion Ryan Beason, 14, a freshman at Juneau-Douglas High School. But his father, Randy, placed in the top 20 with a 27.3-pound king he turned in to the Douglas weigh station at 5:03 p.m. Friday.
The Beasons reeled in about 15 fish during the derby, mostly 12- to 14-pound cohos. As they set out Sunday morning, Ryan knew his odds for another victory were slim.
"I thought there was a chance, but I knew there wasn't much of one," he said. "We hadn't been catching that many big ones."
As of late Sunday, but before the results were declared official, the top 10 anglers, all of whom had caught kings, were: 1. Vickie Perry, 35.2 pounds; 2. Jarod Winnen, 33.2 pounds; 3. Shaun Lewis, 30.8 pounds; 4. George Davis, 30.5 pounds; 5. Teri Lewis, 30.3 pounds; 6. Carol J. Collins, 29.1 pounds; 7. Richard Berning, 28.9 pounds; 8. Scott Granse, 28.3 pounds; 9. Tracy Moore, 28.0 pounds; 10. Tim Dimond, 27.8 pounds.
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.