Chase Hanis with his 2017 winning king salmon. (Ketchikan CHARR King Salmon Derby photo)

Citing concerns of declining Chinook salmon stocks throughout Southeast, the Ketchikan CHARR King Salmon Derby Committee decided to skip the derby that traditionally starts on the Memorial Day weekend. They’ll hold a silver salmon contest later in the summer, instead. 

Michael Briggs is coordinator of the derby.

“Even going back to last year, we were anticipating some stricter regulations coming into this year, so we sort of weighed options even a year ago. The general consensus of the committee was to go ahead and move it to a silver salmon derby rather than put the pressure on the king salmon as we do each year.”

Kelly Reppert is the ADF&G Ketchikan area sport fish management biologist.  She says king salmon stocks in Southeast are in a period of low production, and fish returning to the Unuk River near Ketchikan is a stock of concern.

“The Unuk River king salmon escapement goals were met for the last 35 consecutive years, but since 2012 the lower bound of the escapement goal has been missed in five out the past six consecutive years.”

In January, the Board of Fisheries adopted a plan identifying specific management actions to conserve Unuk River salmon. For the Ketchikan area sport fishery, Reppert says that includes closures in certain areas. Where king salmon fishing is allowed, she says the bag limit is one king for all anglers, with a non-resident annual limit of three kings. Reppert says those rules may change if it’s determined more restrictions are necessary.

Other Southeast communities have canceled or modified their 2018 king salmon derbies, including Juneau, Petersburg and Wrangell.

Briggs says the Ketchikan salmon derby committee considered several options, including changing the dates of the derby, before making a final decision.

“This is a resource that we obviously rely on for our recreation, but king salmon fishing is also a very important resource for us commercially, and so we thought it was a good idea to kind of lay off the fish for a year or two. Hopefully the stocks will replenish and before you know it, we’ll be doing a king salmon derby again.”

Briggs says this year’s silver salmon derby will maintain the same format as the king derby, taking place over three consecutive weekends, including one three-day weekend. The derby will open August 18th and conclude on Labor Day.

Briggs says prize packages for the 30 ladder spots will be finalized within the next few months, but the top prize of $10,000 for the largest salmon will remain. He says ticket prices will likely remain the same, as well. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Ketchikan CHARR Education Fund. According to a press release from CHARR, since taking over the derby in 2006, more than $120,000 has been awarded to local students.