Charter captain Greg Jones displays a 20-pounder he caught during the derby. Kid winners Harrison Zalit, Hailey Jensen and Remington Wiley hold their checks. And a group of fishermen show off their catch.
Story and Photos by Andrew Cremata
For one participant in the fifth annual Pat Moore Memorial Game Fish Derby, the waiting was the hardest part.
On Fri. July 17, the second day of the four-day event, seasonal resident Michael Felber caught a 28.35 pound king salmon putting him first on the leader board for the $2,500 grand prize. A slow day of fishing on Saturday meant Felber was still in the lead heading into the final day of the event.
As of 10 a.m. on Sunday, no fish had been registered at the weigh-in station at the small boat harbor. Then the winning bite came on.
Over the course of the four days of the derby, sponsored by the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council, there were many memorable moments and more than a few shouts of joy from the more than 120 people who registered for the event.
Seven-year-old Skagway resident Harrison Zalit captured the bulk of the children’s prizes by landing a lunker king weighing in at 25.3 pounds – good enough for sixth place on the leader board. Harrison was smiling as he held his handful of checks and a fishing outfit prize package at the awards banquet on Sunday.
Zalit’s fish was not big enough to best out this year’s winner of the local’s prize of $500, Jim Roberts. Roberts caught his 26.5 pound fish early in the derby on Thursday. Every day Roberts checked the leader board to make sure he still held on to the coveted prize and local bragging rights.
Seasonal resident Valerie Jensen caught three fish during a single half-day trip on Friday totaling 51.5 pounds, the largest of which was 17.4 pounds. Jensen was crowned the winner of the women’s prizes for both largest fish and the most overall poundage.
On Sunday, numerous boats braved the choppy seas for a shot at the grand prize, but for the first two hours not a single legal king salmon had been caught. Finally, at 8:15 the first fish of the day was registered, but Felber’s lead was still secure.
Regular derby attendee Al Fedoriak of Whitehorse hooked up with a big one just before 10 a.m., and the fish tipped the scale at 29.05 pounds. The big king topped Felber’s by only seven-tenths of a pound.
Fedoriak would have to wait until 5 p.m. to claim this year’s derby crown but the fish held, making him the grand prize winner, senior winner, and Yukon resident winner. In all, Fedoriak won over $3,000 in cash and prizes.
One of the most memorable sights from any derby year happened at noon on Sunday. Skagway resident Michael Yee was fishing from his skiff by himself when he hooked up with a beast below the surface.
Yee fought the fish for well over 20 minutes, intermittently righting his skiff in the rough seas while trying to maintain some control over the fish’s terrible runs. A group of onlookers from other fishing vessels, shore fishermen, and cruise ship passengers came in for a closer look and were cheering him on.
There was one major problem - Yee did not have a net.
Regular derby supporter Mike Korsmo was in his own skiff watching the fight and brought a net over to Yee in his boat so he could land the fat salmon.
Yee took a few swipes at the fish with the net, and each time it made another run. Finally, Yee managed to net the fish to a round of enthusiastic cheers from the throng that had been watching the epic battle. Yee collapsed back into his chair on the skiff and let out a sigh of relief.
While the fish was not the derby winner, the battle did not deter Yee from trying. He was back out on the water within minutes after having weighed the fish at the Petro Marine float.
For his sportsmanlike attitude, Korsmo was awarded the Pat Moore Sportsman Award for best displaying the spirit of the derby’s namesake.
The derby was started in 2005 as a fundraiser for the TIWC and named after longtime Skagway resident Pat Moore, who passed away from ALS in the same year.
TIWC Executive Director Alicia Wendlandt urged continued support for ALS research at the derby banquet and announced a $100 donation from the TIWC to the ALS Association in Pat Moore’s name.
In all, the derby awarded over $10,000 in cash and prizes to participants, all donated from local businesses. Wendlandt said next year’s derby is already being planned.
1: Al Fedoriak, 29.05 pounds
2: Michael Felber, 28.35 pounds
3: Robert Russel, 27.00 pounds
4: Jim Roberts, 26.50 pounds
5: Steve Moore, 26.40 pounds
6: Harrison Zalit, 25.30 pounds
7: Nate Kaczmerak, 24.20 pounds
8: Andrew Cremata, 23.75 pounds
9: Derek Long, 23.05 pounds
10: Wayne Long. 22.60 pounds
Women’s Highest Poundage: Valerie Jensen, 51.5 pounds
Women’s Largest King: Valerie Jensen, 17.4 pounds
Highest Poundage Overall: Greg Jones, 60.65 pounds
Skagway Local’s Prize: Jim Roberts, 26.5 pounds
Summer Worker’s Prize: Michael Felber, 28.35 pounds
Yukon Resident’s Prize: Al Fedoriak, 29.05 pounds
Senior Award: Al Fedoriak, 29.05 pounds
In the Pink Prize: Andrew Cremata, 6.85 pounds
Shirt Day Prize: Darren Malchow
First King Thursday: Derek Long
First King Friday: Greg Jones
First King Saturday: Mitch Malchow
First King Sunday: Andrew Cremata
Youth Largest King: Harrison Zalit, 25.3
Youth Highest Poundage: Harrison Zalit, 25.3
Youth Female Largest King: Allison Hollon, 12.70
Youth Male Largest King: Harrison Zalit, 25.3 pounds
Youngest person to enter any fish: Remington Wiley, 17.3 pound King
Youth entering first King of derby: Harrison Zalit, 25.3 pounds
Youth entering largest Pink salmon: Hailey Jensen, 4.95 pounds
Youth entering largest Dolly Varden: Chance Schkade, 1.55 pounds
Shore Fisherman Award: no winner
Halibut Prize: no winner