A timeline the Seward Chamber of Commerce put together explaining the origins of its almost 70-year run of silver salmon derbies is a fascinating journey.
From awarding Chevy station wagons as grand prices, to using proceeds from the event to repair 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake damage, and first offering anglers a chance to buy back the fish they caught in 1970, the history lesson offers some great moments to look back on (take a look at the graphic above or view it on Seward.com’s Seward Silver Salmon Derby history page.
Now as the community gets ready for the 2023 event from Aug. 12-20, we caught up with Ally Burdett, the Seward Chamber of Commerce’s communications coordinator, for a preview of the Seward Silver Salmon Derby.:
Chris Cocoles This event has such a long and rich history (click here for more details), so can you maybe offer up some thoughts on what this event has meant to Seward over the years?
Ally Burdett The derby has been a long-time Alaskan tradition since 1956. It has brought Alaskans across the state and visitors together for decades as an all out fun and friendly competition. We are so excited to be hosting the 68th annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby!
CC I think it’s great that the first derby’s profits – $165 and change – went towards stocking local streams. Have similar programs continued over the years with this event? And I know now that a lot of proceeds from each fish that’s caught to fund fish restoration through Cook Inlet Aquaculture. Can you speak to that a little bit more?
AB Yes, every single fish caught at the derby generates money for fish restoration efforts through our “Buy Back” program. Through the Buy Back program, anglers may buy back their fish for $5 at the time of weigh-in. All proceeds from fish sales are used to support the Resurrection Bay Fish Enhancement efforts and approved programs. We are very proud to help support our coho population restoration efforts.
CC How important is this derby for the community financially in attracting anglers to buy derby tickets and visiting local businesses?
AB The derby is one of the largest in the state, bringing in thousands of people every year. This benefits our local businesses. Whether you’re fishing, watching or taking a break from it all, there is always something going on in Seward. Learn more about curating your trip to Seward at seward.com.
CC The tournament organizers have mentioned in the past how helpful the local charter boat captains are in getting anglers out on the water to catch fish during this event. How much do the guides and other locals look forward to hosting participants?
AB We are all looking forward to another exciting year at the derby. We have tons of options when it comes to choosing how you want to participate – whether that be from a boat, in a kayak, on the shore, or in a sailboat. Something that is really unique about the derby is it’s really up to the angler to decide how they’ll reel in their catch! All of our experienced guides are ready and excited to serve you! Check out all of our charter listings on Seward.com
CC There have been so many salmon closures and low runs around Alaska. But does it seem like the silver runs around Seward are still in pretty good shape?
AB Last year we had a great run and we are hoping it will be another great year for fishing!
CC Is this part of summer – between the Mount Marathon race and this derby – both hectic and exciting at the same time? Tell me about the mood of the community preparing for and staging these big events.
CC This year we had an especially late, rainy start to the summer. Hosting events like Mount Marathon and the Seward Silver Salmon Derby are so important to us because it really is all about bringing people together – no matter the weather. It drives excitement and is something to look forward to. We are so grateful for our team, community members and volunteers who unite to put on these amazing events together. We have something to look forward to every year, together.
CC This snippet stood out to me too from the timeline: In 2016, the average harvest of the silver salmon sport fishery in Resurrection Base rose from 16,000 to about 80,000 fish, thanks in part to the derby’s fish restoration and stocking efforts. How cool of a feeling is that for the derby and the city?
AB That is a really great feeling because that is what the derby is all about. It’s a full-circle moment there. Anglers get to take fish out of the ocean and bring them home, funding our Buy Back program that directly then goes into fish restoration and coho stocking programs. It really is an amazing aspect of the derby.
CC Can you go over some of this year’s expected prizes – both cash awards and sponsored prizes?
AB We’ll have several cash prizes. The first-place winner will take home a grand-prize of $10,000 plus the weight of the fish in Kaladi’s coffee! We have Cabela’s gift cards, sponsored prizes from local businesses and plenty more. There will also be daily prizes as well as randomly drawn prizes. Side-bets will also take place again this year. We’ll also have tagged fish, allowing people the chance to win big at random!
Along with winning at the derby, we are also excited to keep the momentum going at our first annual Silver Salmon Ball! It will take place on Friday, August 18 from 6-9:30 p.m. at the Gateway Hotel. This event is meant to celebrate the end of the derby with music, food, refreshments, prizes and more. RSVP at seward.com/salmon-derby/silver-salmon-ball/.
CC Maybe you also talk a bit about the volunteers and the Seward.com staff that work hard to put on this and other events.
AB The Seward Chamber of Commerce would like to give a huge thank you to all of our hard-working staff and volunteers. Without them, we could not have put on this event. Volunteers help manage the derby booth every single day of the derby. They help angler’s with registration, weighing fish and recording information. We will always have at least one Chamber staff member at the derby.