The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Fern Greenbank
LOG Editor 

Bragging rights at stake in derby fishing


Courtesy Seward Chamber of Commerce| For The LOG

John Kennedy took over the leader board Tuesday afternoon with a 17.67 pound Silver caught aboard the Got Fish.

"Winning isn't everything," said fisherman Eric Johnson. "We're all fishing for bragging rights."

Johnson's family is off to a good start if bragging rights is what they are after. His uncle, Jim Cottrell, was number one on the leaderboard for a good 24 hours before getting bumped down. Cottrell now sits in the number fivespot. Last year, Johnson's daughter won the youth derby. He says they are serious about derby fishing.

On Tuesday afternoon, John Kennedy from New Palsestine, IN. took over the lead spot with a 17.67 pound silver. Local fisherwoman Kari Atwood slipped into fourth place with her 16.87 pounder. Currently in second place is Karl Bergstrom of Anchorage with a 17.41 pound silver and third place is currently held by Eric Dubey of Wasilla with a 17 pounder.

Johnson, who travels in style on the Coho Loco, said fishing is good despite a few days of rocky weather. Most boats are out near the islands, he said, where fish are running really deep. He said the water is relatively calm even though the winds are high. There's a big swing in high tide and low tide current, he said.

This master fisherman said he's pretty sure if the skies clear up, there will be great fishing inside the bay.

"You won't have to go further than the SeaLife Center to catch a fish," he said.

Chamber Event Coordinator Erin Lemas hopes Johnson is right. The nasty weather for the past few days has slowed the derby down a bit, but she's confident there will be sunny skies ahead. In 2013, she said, on day one of the Derby they recorded 2,405 pounds of fish. This year, they've recorded 1,530. Lemas said this isn't necessarily because less fish have been caught. She said for some reason, fishermen and women are not entering all their fish.

"Just because a fish isn't the biggest, doesn't mean they can't win something," said Erin. "There's cool stuff for random weights and other odd categories."

Lemas also wants to remind fishermen that the Derby is a charity event that supports great programs in Seward. The fees for entering go to good use. Lemas also thinks the weather does have an impact because small boats don't hold up well in big swells and, Johnson pointed out, that sitting in a wet boat all day getting drenched isn't really fun.

"But when it's sunny, you see every contraption possible out there," said Johnson. "People will make floats out of anything."

Lemas reports that no tagged fish has been caught yet, but there are some fishermen with stories about tagged fish that were just 10 feet away, close enough to touch.

Monday afternoon, Lemas was sitting in a lawn chair on the dock and there was a commotion. Somebody was commenting on how big a fish was. People standing at the photo area started looking toward the scales. Sure enough, a new leader emerged with a 17.41 pound fish caught by Carl Berstrom of Anchorage. The official judge, Richard Hocking, from the SeaLife Center, was called out to give the fish a once over.

"He was so into it," said Lemas. "He was stroking it and talking about its color and all the little details and we could tell he really loves fish."

Hocking found a partially digested pollock in the fish's stomach which probably pushed him over the 17 pound mark, said Lemas.

"But hey, every ounce counts," said Lemas. "Doesn't matter if it's in the fish."

Judge Hocking was called back to duty Tuesday afternoon to inspect the latest leader caught by John Kennedy. There's plenty of time left to take over the leader board or wrangle a tagged fish. Or, you can enter your fish for good old fashioned surprises.

The grand award ceremony, which will come in the form of an old fashioned salmon bake this year, will be held at 5 p.m. at the Pavilion after the Duck Derby concludes at the Lowell Waterfall. The Breeze Inn, the Rotary and the Chamber are donating food. Prizes will be handed out at the ceremony and the girl's basketball team has volunteered to do the clean up to raise some travel funds for the team.


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