Lily Craig shows off the silver salmon she caught on the Kenai River during the Kenai Chamber of Commerce’s first annual silver salmon derby in September 2017. (Photo courtesy Nathaniel Craig)

Silver derby wraps up with 200+ entries

With the first Kenai River Silver Salmon Derby officially closed, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce is calling it a success.

The derby organizers weighed their last salmon Sunday evening after five days of determining random “magic” winning weights and awarding daily prizes to the adult and youth anglers with the fish closest to that weight. Fishermen brought in 266 salmon to be weighed over the course of those five days, said Kenai Chamber of Commerce President and COO Johna Beech.

“It went really well,” she said. “We are considering it to be a success.”

All those tickets were sold between Sept. 12 and Sept. 17, too, she said. The chamber, which partnered with the city of Kenai and with the Kenai Community Foundation to put on the derby, didn’t get the final green light for the derby from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation until Aug. 28. That meant the chamber couldn’t sell tickets early or do a lot of marketing to attract people to the peninsula to participate in the derby.

A few of the participants were from Anchorage or outside, but most were locals, Beech said.

“For the most part, it wasn’t a mass exodus, which was kind of nice that we kept it local, just for the first year so we can work out the kinks,” she said.

Most of those kinks are administrative, she said. By and large, the system the chamber worked out went over well — each evening, the organizers spun a set of wooden wheels at the Three Bears grocery store in Kenai to determine the magic weight for the day, and the fish that weighed in closest to that won the daily prize. The organizers chose to do the magic weight system after concerns arose about increasing the number of fish caught and released if the prize system worked on the largest fish caught.

At the end of the derby, they spun the wheel again to determine the overall winner, which this year went to Kendall Soares in the adult category for a 12.3-pound silver and Lily Craig in the youth category with a 12.19-pound silver, both only a hair away from the magic weight of 12.32 pounds.

The daily weights were completely random and covered a wide range from day to day — the highest was Friday, when the magic number was 21.12 pounds and the lowest was Sunday, when the number was only 5.7 pounds.

“Everybody really liked doing the wheels,” Beech said. “We actually every night had a little crowd waiting to see what the weight was going to be. … We spun for the overall number, and I was actually nervous. I think it was just the excitement.”

The youth category had only nine participants, Beech said. A pair of siblings dominated the winner’s circle for the youth category — Joseph and Lily Craig alternated on winning the prize from Friday through Sunday, including one day where there was only one youth entry.

Their father, Nathaniel Craig, gave credit to the staff at Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing in Soldotna for help on reeling in silvers.

“I would like to give a special thanks to the staff at Trustworthy Hardware … who took the time to educate us on how to rig our fishing lures, best colors to use, and techniques to reel in the big ones,” he said in an email. “They have always been extremely helpful, kind to my family, and have the best prices in town!”

Joseph Craig won the youth category Friday and Sunday, with a 12.13-pound fish and a 13.95-pound fish, respectively; Lily Craig took home the youth prize Saturday with a 9.72-pound fish and the overall prize.

One of the chamber’s main goals for the derby is to help buff out the shoulder season in Kenai, when the tourism traffic is dying down for the winter. The organizers kept it relatively simple this year, using the same weight for the adult and youth categories, but they hope to do more advertising next year before the event kicks off, Beech said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabethearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

Lily Craig (left) and Joseph Craig show off the silver salmon they caught on the Kenai River during the Kenai Chamber of Commerce’s first annual silver salmon derby in September 2017. (Photo courtesy Nathaniel Craig)

More in News

Paul Whitney (courtesy photo)
A conversation with Paul Whitney, Soldotna mayoral candidate

Whitney highlights familiarity with the city, COVID response in run for Soldotna Mayor

Justin Ruffridge (Courtesy photo)
Election 2020: A conversation with Justin Ruffridge

Ruffridge emphasizes health care expertise

Pamela Parker (courtesy photo)
Election 2020: A conversation with Pamela Parker

Parker emphasizes need to support business community

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna is seen here on June 1. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to take up internet expansion at next meeting

The assembly will decide whether to move forward with the construction of internet towers at the Oct. 13 meeting.

Christine Cunningham, Assistant to the Kenai City Manager, shows off a silver salmon she caught for the 4th annual Kenai Silver Salmon Derby in this undated photo. (Courtesy Christine Cunningham)
Kenai derby wraps up successful tournament

The derby sold 136 tickets and received 13 company sponsorships

Daily school district COVID-19 risk levels: Sept. 29

Risk levels are based on COVID cases reported in a community and determine how schools will operate.

DHSS announces 120 new cases, 2 in Soldotna

DHSS announced that 120 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

Image via Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
2nd COVID case reported at Seward Elementary

The school will go remote for rest of week.

Rule recommendation met with both praise and distrust

Tongass may see ‘complete exemption.’

Most Read