Juneau’s first-ever, coho-only summer salmon derby kicks off Friday

The Golden North Salmon Derby weigh station at Auke Bay. (Photo courtesy Territorial Sportsmen Inc)

This weekend’s salmon derby in Juneau will go on as planned despite an emergency order prohibiting anglers from keeping king salmon.

Meanwhile, derby organizers are hoping that a potential bump in coho returns will offset any economic losses during the event.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game shut down all commercial and sport fishing for kings in Southeast Alaska on Thursday because of poor river production.

Doug Larsen, co-chair of the Golden North Salmon Derby in Juneau, said this is the first time in the event’s 71 year history that derby anglers cannot catch kings.

Looking at the numbers from last year’s salmon derby, Larsen explains that 18,086 pounds of fish were landed. Barely 7 percent of that catch were kings, but they generated about a quarter of the $24,000 revenue for the derby.

“Losing kings will certainly have an impact on income,” Larsen said. “But the good news is the bulk of the income has come from cohos that’s what we will get this year is a coho derby. I’m confident that we can make up a lot of that especially in light of the fact that the reports are really good about coho numbers. To the extent that we get people out fishing and catching cohos, I think we’ll be just fine in terms as raising money for scholarships.”

Larsen estimates they would need to catch an additional 500 cohos this year to make up for the loss of kings.

Kings are usually heavier than cohos. As a premium fish, they also fetch a higher price, sometimes as much as four times the price. Glacier Seafoods in Juneau buys all of the salmon caught by derby participants.

“There’s a special permit required and we get that through the (Alaska) Department of Fish and Game,” Larsen said. With that permit, we’re allowed to do that just as other derbies across Alaska are able to do that.”

2016 Golden North Salmon Derby by the numbers

 

  • 85 king salmon were caught which weighed 1,256 pounds
  • Average king weight was 14.8 pounds and price paid was $4.32/pound
  • Total revenue from kings was $5,435
  • 1,658 coho salmon were caught which weighed 16,830 pounds
  • Average coho weight was 10.1 pounds and price paid was $1.10/pound
  • Total revenue from cohos was $18,513
  • Total revenue from both king and coho catches was $23,948
  • Total number of derby participants in 2016 was 1,100

Courtesy Doug Larsen, Golden North Salmon Derby

The fish sale revenue, along with ticket sales, are plowed into a scholarship fund managed by the Territorial Sportsmen Incorporated, a local hunting and fishing group. Three-hundred students — including a much-younger Larsen — have received a total of $1.7 million in scholarships over the years.

Juneau students were awarded $36,000 just this past year.

When as many as 1,100 derby participants get their tickets validated, they will be told that derby officials won’t accept any kings.

Even though it might be a huge buzzkill to return a hefty and hard-fighting king to the water unharmed, Cathy Muñoz, another derby co-chair, still expects anglers will have fun.

“I think the event will be successful regardless,” Muñoz said. “We have a three-day event with lots of opportunity to get out on the water and fish for silver salmon. Hopefully, it won’t have a big impact. We’re counting on a strong community showing and continued support for the derby.”

She also has faith in Department of Fish and Game’s actions.

“We respect the decision of (the Alaska Department of) Fish and Game,” Muñoz said. “They have the most recent numbers and most recent data. If they felt it was appropriate at this time, we fully support that.”

The Golden North Salmon Derby starts at 7:30 a.m. Friday, August 11, in Juneau waters and ends at 6 p.m. Sunday, August 13.

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