Past derby scholarship winner gives back

Jonathan Gunstrom is a past recipient of a Territorial Sportsmen scholarship. Now, he’s the volunteer dock foreman in Douglas for the derby. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The Golden North Salmon Derby has three official stations – Douglas, Auke Bay and Amalga Harbor. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Derby participants caught 15,000 pounds less coho this year than last year. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Jackie Dimond weighs in her 18.5-pound salmon in Douglas around 4:15 Sunday. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Mark Pusich’s 23.9-pound king salmon is unofficially in second place. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Alexsandra Firestack poses near her 16.8-pound coho at the Douglas weigh station. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Gunstrom says this derby was a little slower than past years due to the weather, but the fish were just as big. (Photo by Lisa

For most people, the three-day Golden North Salmon Derby is about catching the biggest fish. For Jonathan Gunstrom, the derby is about giving back.

In 1991, Gunstrom received a Territorial Sportsmen scholarship when he graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School. It helped him go to Acadia University in Canada, where he studied marine biology.

Now, he’s a volunteer for the derby.


Jonathan Gunstrom is the dock foreman at the Douglas weigh station. He and his crew volunteer 12-14 hours each day, Friday through Sunday. Duties include handling, weighing and icing all the fish.

It’s Gunstrom’s fourth derby. Most of his crew have been volunteering for at least that long.

“We kind of have our own little set up where us guys are the fish mongers and tie up the boats and weigh the fish and take all the fish from the boats,” Gunstrom says. “And the gals have been recording all the weights and giving out scholarship tickets and prizes.”

Gunstrom says the derby has been slower year this year due to the weather. He says there might not be as many fish as past years, but the fish they are seeing are good sized.

“It’s always fun to have the big fish and to see the excitement in the people when they bring them in. They’re all hyped up because, hey, they might win the big prize,” Gunstrom says.

All the derby fish are sold to Alaska Glacier Seafoods. Proceeds go toward the Territorial Sportsmen Scholarship Fund, which awards up to five college and three vocational scholarships to local high school graduates.

“I was a recipient of the scholarship,” says Gunstrom, who went to college in Novia Scotia, Canada. “My friends 4,000 miles away in college didn’t know why I was getting the scholarship or what it was about and to get to explain to them the whole process of the salmon derby and what it was for, it was really neat, to be able to receive it. And now it’s just fun to give back and be a part of it.”

Unofficial derby results:

A 27.9-pound king salmon is the unofficial winner of the 68th Golden North Salmon Derby. That was caught by Max Mielke on Friday at 2:44 p.m. and turned in at the Douglas weigh station.

In other unofficial results, Mark Pusich came in second with a 23.9-pound king caught Sunday just after 1 p.m. In third place is a 22.8-pound chinook caught by Gerald Voss at 11:20 Saturday morning. Both were also weighed in at Douglas.

The 68th biggest fish weighed in at 16.3 pounds caught by Brian Geottler on Friday.

About 1,100 people participated in the derby, which started Friday morning and ended yesterday (Sunday) evening. Results will be certified tomorrow.

Awards night is Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in Centennial Hall. Prizes go to the 68 biggest fish and there will also be drawings for those who turned in scholarship fish.