Friday, May 27, 2005

Salmon Derby time

While surfing the net tonight I saw a link to KFSK radio in Petersburg. I couldn't resist hearing some news from my old stomping grounds. It turned out to be a bi-weekly public trading program featuring sets of tires and fish tank supplies. But it was also the opening day of the annual salmon derby. Now that really perked up my ears. Emily somebody had taken just sixteen minutes to run out, catch, and bring back the first king salmon for whatever prize that garnered. Seems that Emily is somewhat of a specialist in bringing in the first king, not her first or second even.

Seems that another derby participant has a penchant for finding the biggest ones too. He is the son-in-law of one of the original fishing guides in Petersburg, probably the first real serious one. Andy used to get us kids to take out people that were staying at his motel. I only took out one of his guests, but we did ok. I had tried to jig some herring for bait but wasn't having any luck. So I took the client over to the cold storage, climbed up a ladder, went into a holding room and pried off a couple of frozen herring from a fifty pound block with a screwdriver. Andy had said if you're not catching anything, drop down to just above the bottom and maybe you'll get a halibut. So that's what we ended up doing, but we caught a king salmon instead. That guy was from someplace where he had only caught little crappies and he lugged that king up and down main street proud as anything.

This is getting to be the peak of the king salmon run that is heading for the mouth of the Stikine River about twenty miles from Petersburg. This is the first year gillnetting for kings has been allowed for decades. My brother is out there now gillnetting, carrying on an Enge tradition of gillnetting near the mouth of the Stikine stretching back a hundred years. Arnold has worked for years on the U.S. - Canada Salmon Treaty Negotiating Team to try build up that run. I guess his work has paid off.

My first commercial fishing experience was with my grandfather up in the muddy waters of the North Arm when we were the only boat in sight. Of course I was so small I mostly only remember climbing around in the foc'sle of the gas boat. But I saw a picture of me recently sitting beside my grandfather while he rowed his gillnet skiff. (In those days he anchored the net in the channel and picked it with the big flat bottomed skiff.)

But back to the derby. The king salmon derby of the Memorial Day weekend is quite the institution now. I don't think I ever bought a ticket myself, but helped get it going. Ken Raddick, a Forest Service employee back in 1980, should be given the credit. He started a Jaycees chapter in Petersburg about that time. One of the first things they did was start a king salmon derby. The second year they asked me to fabricate an aluminum cleaning table to bolt to the floats in the boat harbor so people would have a good place to clean their salmon after they had been weighed. I saw in some much later year that someone had put a plaque on that cleaning station giving some state program the credit for installing it. It was the proceeds of the first salmon derby that funded the first cleaning table. Needless to say, I handed that plaque back in to the nearest Fish and Game office.

I didn't weigh any fish that second year either, but my I drew up the boundaries and wrote the rules for the first brochure. They made me the President of the Petersburg Jaycees after that. The derby was off and running from then on. I put the northern boundaries a long ways out, but just shy of waters I had always gotten bounced around pretty good in. Besides it was getting close to traditional commercial trolling grounds. I had some good fishing holes out there quite a ways that I wanted included, but I left for my banking career the next winter and have never fished those holes again. Not that I'm the only one that knows about them though. One of them is a great place to fish from a real small skiff as I'm inclined to do now.

A couple of other Jaycees, Dave and Nancy Berg, need a lot of the credit for getting the derby going in Petersburg. And they've done a lot through the years for the visitor industry in Petersburg. Having the travel agency there I'm sure provided a little impetus. New blood in a little town like that is always a good thing. There just isn't much room for new blood in these little coastal villages in Alaska though. The things that have really helped are new ideas as opposed to new goods or services. Hence my hunch that discussing all the issues in a public forum like over the internet has a better chance of flushing up the next good idea.


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