Pink Salmon Derby raises cash for Fishin’ Club scholarships

Robert Mills holds his third-place winning 6.76-pound pink salmon after weigh-in at the Whidbey Island Pink Salmon Derby Saturday.  - Wayne Furber photo
Robert Mills holds his third-place winning 6.76-pound pink salmon after weigh-in at the Whidbey Island Pink Salmon Derby Saturday.
— image credit: Wayne Furber photo

It was a busy day for anglers during the biennial Whidbey Island Pink Salmon Derby. More than 180 entrants weighed in about 50 pink salmon at the end of the annual event.

Ticket fees combined with food sales raised $1,600 for the Fishin’ Club’s scholarships. In the derby’s second year, the club expects to offer up to three scholarships for students pursuing a fisheries-related field.

“Everyone is ecstatic that we will be able to increase our scholarship fund,” said Wayne Furber, the club’s vice president.

“We’re looking forward to receiving the scholarship applications for next year,” he added.

In total, 183 anglers brought in 54 humpies for weighing. The total fish count was much higher, Furber said, especially later in the afternoon, after some of the winning fish were weighed.

“I knew of numerous people who thought, ‘Oh, it’s not too big, so I’m just going to keep it,’” Furber said.

Some of the catches were not weighed in. Instead, almost 70 salmon were donated to one of the six Good Cheer Food Bank coolers, totaling about 250 fillets, thanks to some volunteers who gutted and filleted them.

“They were on the shelf on Monday, and they were gone by Wednesday,” said Good Cheer President Kathy McLaughlin.

“It means that more people can have that as a choice, and a lot of the food bank’s clients can’t afford to go fishing,” she said.

Other fishers hooked several humpies, but could only enter one.

Winning adult angler Steve Davis needed only one fish. His winner, an 8.17 pound pink, was caught at about 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20.

“That’s probably one of the biggest pinks I ever caught,” Davis said. “Once you get into them, you’re catching them left and right.”

It was big enough to draw Furber’s praise.

“That’s a pretty good size pink salmon,” Furber said. “When you get one breaking eight pounds, you’re doing really well.”

During the derby, Davis caught and released a few fish. The 36-year-old Greenbank resident had a five-minute fight to reel in the prize-winning pink salmon using a pink Buzz Bomb off Bush Point.

“It actually fought pretty good,” Davis said. “Once I got it on the boat, I thought, ‘we got it right here.’”

His boat now has a backup downrigger. As the first-place finisher, Davis won a Scotty Downrigger. But, he already owns one.

“A brand-new Scotty Downrigger was pretty nice,” Davis said. “I’ve never won anything that nice by catching any fish.”

The first and only two-time winner was Taylor Fifield of Clinton.

The 7-year-old caught a 5.53-pound pink salmon to win the children’s division for a second time.

The catch rate, though lower than the reports coming in from Everett and Snohomish during the pink salmon’s river run, was typical for these waters.

“I think it’s about average for this time of the year,” Furber said. “You have a lot of people who entered, and maybe didn’t participate.”

The catch that the Fishin’ Club hauled in was far from average, however. Two days before the derby, only 94 tickets were sold. Come the Friday before, 90 more were purchased.

“I was feeling somewhat disappointed until Friday,” said Kari Gerow, the derby coordinator and Freeland Ace Hardware manager. “It was a good turnout, it was real fun.”

Even derby contestants who didn’t weigh in a winning fish left with a prize. Gerow said more than 100 prizes were handed out, thanks to all the vendors who donated them.

Donations are Good Cheer Food Bank’s bread-and-butter, and McLaughlin said she wanted to remind any anglers still trying their luring luck around Whidbey to bring in their catches.

“They’re running good right now, I’ve heard,” she said.

Other winners include Kim Guthrie (6.76 pounds) and Robert Mills (6.5 pounds) in the adult division. In the children division, Devlin Erickson won second place with a 5.41-pound pink and Cowan Criswell won third place with a 5.31 pounder.

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