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The coho-rageous decision has been made.
The Ketchikan CHARR King Salmon Derby committee has canceled its chinook derby and replaced it with one featuring coho — at least for this season.
As of early February, committee members decided to lay off the chinook stocks, which are low at present, and allow them to replenish in number and size.
This is a perfect example of the regard the people living and working within Southeast Alaska — where the Tongass National Forest is located — display for Alaska and its natural resources.
Often times, particularly when it comes to national forest interests and debate, Southeast views are overshadowed by those from the Outside and sometimes as far away as Washington, D.C.
But, here in Ketchikan and Southeast, the goal is to sustain the resources in order to reap their benefits — both for the economy and recreation. Southeasterners truly are the best caretakers of Southeast.
Concern for the resource is evident throughout the region, with Juneau, Wrangell and Petersburg also canceling or altering their chinook derbies.
As a result of the committee’s decision, Ketchikan sport fishers will be competing in a summer silver derby.
The derby will begin Aug. 18, running three consecutive weekends to close at the end of the three-day Labor Day Weekend.
This new derby holds promise for competitive anglers with an eye on the big prize — the prize ladder will be topped as usual with a grand prize including $10,000 cash — as the coho is a more prevalent fish. It’s also smaller and the size disparities will be less in the new derby, meaning the increased likelihood of a very small weight differentiation between the winner and the runner-up, and the increased probability of the lead changing more frequently throughout the derby.
The bottom line is that Ketchikan and other communities in Southeast don’t always need a law, a rule, a regulation or an allocation to protect the resource. When it’s prudent to change bait and fish for another species, local fishers wisely do it.
In the long run, it will pay off for some who would like a silver derby and others who would one day prefer the return of the king salmon derby. In most cases, they’re likely the same — Alaskans who value the resource.