Seward Silver Salmon Derby A Kenai Peninsula Tradition Since 1956
The following appears in the July issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:
BY CHRIS COCOLES
Seward is gearing up for an annual tradition that dates back to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency.
“The Seward Silver Salmon Derby is a long-time family favorite for Alaskans and visitors alike. It is one of the oldest and largest in the state and derby days are Seward’s busiest fishing days each year, with thousands casting their line for the chance to win,” says Kat Sorensen, executive director of the Seward Chamber of Commerce, which will host this year’s event from Aug. 13-21.
That first event in 1956 was known as the Resurrection Bay Silver Salmon Derby (daily tickets cost $5 and first prize was a new Chevy automobile). Renamed the Seward Silver Derby two years later, the tournament has evolved over time and trudged on, including holding the 1964 derby despite the damage done from that year’s Good Friday Anchorage earthquake, which destroyed the Seward Boat Harbor. The U.S. Army and Air Force Special Services’ construction of a temporary dock made it possible to have an event.
Years later, the Covid pandemic also complicated things, but the community managed to come together to hold the silver derby in both 2020 and 2021.
“We had a lot of Covid protocols in place, but luckily with a fishing derby, most of the action is confined to an individual’s boat or spot along the beach,” Sorensen says. “We found it to work really well, and saw success both years.”
And that kind of resiliency has made this gathering a yearly source of pride within Seward and this salmon- fishing-crazed area all through those 66 previous years.
Proceeds benefit salmon restoration and are an important part of maintaining the waters as fertile habitat. Last year’s derby netted almost $20,000 to fund those projects.
This event is great for Seward and the fishing community as a whole. Many anglers have been fishing the Seward Silver Salmon Derby for decades with their family and enjoying the friendly competition,” Sorensen says. “We are also proud of the fish restoration aspect of the derby. Every fish caught helps to fund fish restoration through Cook Inlet Aquaculture.”
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2022
There is excitement in town for the week-plus-long 2022 Seward Silver Salmon Derby in mid-August, with ticket sales set to open up on the Wednesday before the Saturday opening day (Aug. 13). Daily derby tickets are just $10 and $50 for a full-season derby ticket.
“We’re hoping that anglers can expect full coolers, big fish and a big payout. We’re also continuing to have side bets, which allows for more chances to win,” Sorensen says. “While we love rewarding the largest fish in the derby, we’re excited to provide many different ways to win prizes each day, from the side bets to the randomly drawn weights.”
The prizes will range from cash to Cabela’s gift cards and sponsored giveaways from companies such as Alaska Airlines and Royal Caribbean.
“There will be daily prizes for randomly selected weights and the overall top prizes. We’ll also have tagged fish, allowing people the chance to win big at random,” Sorensen adds.
The biggest prize is a $10,000 check for the heaviest fish caught. And it doesn’t always take a seriously stout silver for an angler to score that special payday. In 2020, David Frenier’s 13.61-pounder was the lightest grand- prize-winning fish on record.
CHARTER BOATS READY FOR ACTION
According to the derby’s website, “Anglers may only fish one group division category per daily ticket, i.e. fishing boat, shore, kayak, or sailboard.” And those visitors who buy a ticket will have no shortage of local charter boat skippers who should stay busy during the week of the tournament.
But as the rules state, there are plenty of methods anglers can use to catch coho in or around Seward. Full derby regulations can be found at seward.com/ salmon-derby/rules.
“We have a whole fleet of engaged charter boat captains. You can find your perfect charter at Seward.com. All derby tickets are sold online, so it’ll be easy to purchase the ticket on the boat in the morning before you head out, or as you’re about to get into your waders in the morning on the shore,” Sorensen says. “It all depends on the run this year, but we’re hoping that there will be plenty of opportunities to catch silvers from a boat, the shore, a kayak, or even a sailboat.”
Sorensen says that there was a good run of coho around Seward in 2021, and she’s hopeful good numbers of returning fish test anglers’ lines again this August. The derby is a showcase for a busy summer around town.
“There’s always something exciting going on in Seward in the summer,” she says. “Head downtown for a live show or explore any of the awesome restaurants and coffee shops in town when you’re not on the water.” ASJ
Editor’s note: For more information, check out seward.com/salmon-derby and follow at facebook.com/SewardChamber.