VALDEZ – The joy of fishing took center stage in this year’s Valdez Kids Pink Salmon Derby. Derby organizers adapted the event for 2020 so anglers posted pictures to the Valdez Fish Derbies website for a chance to win cash and prizes. By midnight Saturday, hundreds of pictures of smiling kids sporting a Valdez Fish Derbies hat and holding a pink salmon flooded the site.
While the pictures posted on the web made the event virtual, the fishing was definitely real. “This is probably the best thing I’ve done all summer,” said Paden Kraus of Fairbanks. Fifteen year-old Kraus said he found a Barbie fishing pole in a shed and decided he wanted to catch a fish with it. And catch a fish he did. “I had my Barbie fishing pole with me. It was my second cast and I reeled a fish in. We took a picture and posted it and next thing I knew I was right here winning a hundred dollars.” Four lucky anglers won $100 cash and eight others won fishing poles.
It didn’t take a special fishing pole to reel in pink salmon on Saturday. The fish were plentiful and easy to catch. Anglers spread out for miles along the shoreline at Allison Point while others fished from boats in the Port of Valdez. Tatum O’Brien, an eight-year-old from Valdez was fishing with her family when her fish bit, “I knew I was going to get it in the boat because cause it caught on pretty good when I saw it,” O’Brian said. “It was fun touching the fishes. I really like winning.” O’Brien won a fishing pole and when asked if she would compete in next year’s Kids Pink Salmon Derby, her answer was an enthusiastic, “Of course!”
In lieu of the Annual Kids Pink Salmon Derby Barbeque, KVAK Radio allowed kids to take over the airwaves for a live one-hour radio show. Members of the KVAK Kids Club produced elements for the show, broadcast live and encouraged kids to call in to win 10 pounds of jellybeans. Several of the young on-air callers were clearly excited to talk about their day fishing so the Valdez Fish Derbies mission statement to ‘promote sport fishing in Valdez’ was realized.
Bill Bentti of Wasilla submitted a picture of his daughter’s fish for the 8 to 10 year-old age division and commented, “This is her very first fish EVER. Thanks to the derby she had so much fun and has now been bitten by the fishing bug! Such a cool event.” Grady Putman of Anchorage, whose son Logan caught a fish in the 5 to 7 year-age division, said “Gave up counting the number of fish we caught. Great way to get the little guy hooked on fishing”. Cat Miler of North Pole said, “We all went out as a family and enjoyed fishing but Andrew never wanted to stop casting. She said Andrew, who fished in the 5 to 7 year-old age division, thought all the fish were “fat and huge”.
Even without a fish weigh-in or big awards event derby marketing coordinator Laurie Prax said she feels the event brought people together to enjoy fishing and the outdoors. Prax spent the day uploading photo submissions and reading comments. She said reading messages about kids loving to fish so much they wouldn’t stop until their arms couldn’t hold the pole anymore made it worth the effort organizers put into the event. Valdez Fish Derbies is a self-sustaining non-profit organization run by seven individuals in Valdez with the help of a small but vibrant staff and a lot of volunteers. For more information about Valdez Fish Derbies or to see photos, visit www.valdezfishderbies.com.
WINNERS OF THE 2020 VALDEZ VIRTUAL KIDS PINK SALMON DERBY
5 to 7 Age Division
$100 Winner Katrina Bak Delta, AK
Fishing Pole Winner Noah Garcia Valdez, AK
Fishing Pole Winner Violet Bristow Fairbanks, AK
8 to 10 Age Division
$100 Winner Krista Vink Palmer, AK
Fishing Pole Winner Tatum O’Brien Valdez, AK
Fishing Pole Winner Andrew Slats Fairbanks, AK
11 to 13 Age Division
$100 Winner Gabe Caruthers Valdez, AK
Fishing Pole Winner Turner Greenwood Fairbanks, AK