2011 Pat Moore Memorial Gamefish Derby

John Tronrud holds his Pat Moore Derby winning fish. The king salmon weighed in at 20.85 lbs. Photo courtesy of Jan Tronrud

For Derby winner, practice makes perfect

Story and Photos by Andrew Cremata

Fishing is something you can't effectively practice, especially if you're not very good at in the first place. Perseverance, however, can sometimes reap dividends.
Local Skagwegian John Tronrud became the winner of the seventh annual Pat Moore Memorial Gamefish Derby in a year where the fish were few and far between. It's hard to think of a more deserving champion, because while it's impossible to practice fishing, spending time on the water in the weeks leading up to the derby comes pretty close. And there is no more dedicated angler in Skagway's troubled waters than Tronrud.
The big winner has also fished Skagway’s previous derbies, but with far different results.
“I’ve been skunked in the derby in years past,” said Tronrud, who told a tale of a potential winning fish he brought to the boat two years ago in the final hour of the derby only to be lost when an attempt was made to net it.
“It was no one’s fault. It’s the way things happen, but I wanted to sit down and cry.”
The winning 20.85-pound king wasn't the biggest salmon Tronrud has ever caught, it wasn't even the biggest he's caught this season, but it will be the one he remembers for a long time. Tronrud’s cash and prize winnings totaled more than $3,500, plenty of money for fishing lessons, which he obviously doesn't need.
Tronrud caught his fish at midday on Derby Friday, and with two and a half more days of fishing left, so the hardest part was the wait.
“I woke up Sunday at 3 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep,” said Tronrud, who endured repeated taunts from fellow anglers who said his fish wouldn’t remain in first place.
“I thought like everyone else, that there was no way the fish was going to hold up. It was a nice fish, but it wasn’t a big fish.”
It was, however, big enough.
It was only the second time that a Skagway local has won the derby, the last two years being dominated by Yukoners. Lara Labesky, another dedicated fishing fanatic, won the prize for largest salmon caught by a woman by catching the second largest fish overall.
While the weather was near-perfect throughout the derby, salmon had apparently not been notified. The fishing could only be described as slow, and many faithful derby anglers were left with a sense of frustration after plugging away for four straight days with little to show for their efforts. Still, the Skagway derby isn't only about catching; it's also about friendly boasts and clever taunts, of which there is never any shortage.
Tronrud offered up a few of his closely guarded secrets to success, “We kept getting bites in this one spot but we weren’t hooking up. So we kept going back through the same area until we did. I was at the right spot at the right time.”
The derby is sponsored by the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council.
Said Tronrud, “I think the volunteers and Watershed Council are the heroes of the whole thing. It takes a lot of work to put the derby on.”
On Sunday evening, derby participants were treated to a banquet of salmon, hot dogs, and hamburgers at the awards ceremony. Stories of success were shared and more than a few tales were told about the one that got away.
Skagway’s more seasoned anglers are already gearing up for next year’s derby, and soon a new round of smack talk will commence. Until that date in the summer of 2012, there is plenty of time to practice.


The crew on Capt. Joe Warchuk’s boat celebrates a fine haul, and a relaxed Elise Decker takes a picture of boat mate Steve Jaklitsch in their skiff.

Sentinels on the watch for the king. Every great derby deserves a cake.


Twelve trails, one busy weekend


Apparently, the Trail Challenge wasn’t challenging enough.
Starting tonight, Ben Seale, one of Skagway’s most accomplished athletes, will run all 12 legs of Duff’s Backcountry Outfitters’ Trail Challenge in a single weekend.
The Trail Challenge, created last year at Duff’s, calls on hikers to conquer each of Skagway’s trails in a single summer, from the pedestrian Lower Dewey Lake trail to the strenuous and expansive Chilkoot Trail. Over the course of four months, participants can post pictures of themselves at each trail on the challenge’s Facebook page and collect a prize bag at Duff’s upon completion.
Seale, a conductor for White Pass and Yukon Route railroad, would be the first to complete the challenge in one weekend, Duff’s manager Kristin Wagner said.
Seale’s 85-mile journey begins tonight when he runs the AB Mountain and Smuggler’s Cove trails. He will take a train to the Denver and Laughton glaciers Saturday morning and will return to Skagway in time to run six more trails: Lower Dewey Lake, Sturgill’s Landing, Upper Dewey Lake, Devil’s Punchbowl, Icy Lake and Upper Reid Falls.
On Sunday, Seale will run more than a marathon when he tackles the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail, a trail that typically takes multiple days to hike. His challenge will end later that day when he completes the Lost Lake trail in Dyea.
Seale said he came up with the idea earlier this summer after looking at the back of the popular Duff’s water bottle, which lists all 12 trails with check boxes besides each one.
“I kind of thought, ‘I wonder if I could do that in a weekend,’ Seale said.”
An enthusiastic Wagner called up representatives from various brands she sells in the store, who offered equipment for Seale to use over the weekend.
Wagner said she hopes to hear feedback from Seale about the products, which include a fluid backpack, running shoes and food supplements, after he finishes.
“You couldn’t ask for a better athlete to use your stuff,” Wagner said.
Wagner and other Duff’s employees will position themselves in the Lower Lake area and along the Chilkoot Trail at aid stations for Seale, she said.
An accomplished runner, Seale has completed several marathons, including the Boston Marathon and the Yukon Trail Marathon six times, and broke the 3-hour barrier at the St. George Marathon in Utah.
Seale also finished the inaugural Skagway Marathon earlier this summer in a relatively sluggish 4 hours, 40 minutes, a time that would have been faster had he not been pushing his two daughters in a stroller most of its 26.3 miles.
The athlete doesn’t expect fatigue to become a factor this weekend, as he’s run all 12 trails individually before.
Barring any setbacks, Seale said he expects to finish the challenge early Sunday evening.
“I’ve got to be at home in time to put my kids in bed,” he said.
The last day to complete the Duff’s Trail Challenge is September 25.

Above, Ben Seale, who ran the Skagway Marathon while pushing his daughters in a stroller, will attempt to complete Duff’s Backcountry Outfitters’ Trail Challenge in one weekend. Hikers typically space the 12 trails out over the course of the summer, however Seale plans to run them in two and a half days. Mark Abadi