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Youth claims top Derby prize
Ketchikan CHARR Salmon Derby grnad prize winner Piper Acteson stands with the 14.5-pound coho salmon that she caught and weighed in at the Knudson Cove Marina weigh-in station on Aug. 25. Photo courtesy of Ketchikan CHARR Salmon Derby

Daily News Staff Writer

The $10,000 grand-prize winner of the 72nd Ketchikan CHARR Salmon Derby is youth ticket-holder Piper Acteson, who caught a 14.5-pound coho.

This isn't the first year that a youth has won the derby. Competitors under the age of 18 took home the grand prize in 2015 and 2017, back when the derby was for king salmon.

Acteson, 15, had the fish weighed in at the Knudson Cove Marina during the fourth day of the seven day competition. The fish is about 1.9 pounds less than last year's winning coho.

"Well it actually didn't fight too much," said Acetson, "we (her and her dad) got it netted and then when we looked into the net, we were like, 'that's a lot bigger than we thought it was.'"

Acteson had been closely following the leader board and knew as soon as it was weighed that it was the leading fish. She said her and her father went out on the final weekend to defend her eventual title.

"We were trying to catch any sort of monster that could top that, and surprisingly my weight held out for the entire last weekend," Acetson said.

She said she plans to put the money in her college fund and use some of it for her gap year.

She also said she'd like to thank her dad, "because he was my skipper."

Several attempts were made to dethrone Acteson's winning fish in the final weekend.

Robert Soule caught a respectable 14.4-pound coho, and three people landed 14.2-pound cohos in the final day.

Since Acteson is the grand-prize winner, the first position on the youth ladder belongs to Malachi Lelea, who weighed in a 13.4-pound coho at Bar Harbor.

The derby switched to cohos last year in response to Alaska Department Fish and Game's increased restrictions on king salmon and an effort by derby organizers to support healthier king salmon runs in the future.

It's a little bit of a transition, according to Derby Coordinator Michael Briggs.

"This year it felt like the people were kind of anticipating it, whereas last year, they were just disappointed there wasn't a king derby," Briggs said.

"I think the buzz around town was a little bit more widely accepted this year than last year," said Briggs, "I'm hoping we made a little bit more money this year."

A total of 870 cohos were weighed in on about 820 tickets, a gain over last year's figures of about 740 cohos and about 780 tickets.

"A lot of the (cohos) that came in and were filling out the top of the leader board were caught this last weekend," said Briggs. "We still saw most of the big fish caught late in the derby."

"The weather was just so brutal those first couple of weekends, I think it kept a lot of people off the water," said Briggs. "We had almost twice as many fish on the last weekend as the first two weekends combined."

In fact, 30 of the 31 top fish on the adult leader board were caught in the final weekend, as well as 10 of the 11 top fish on the youth leaderboard, not including Acteson's fish.

People fished all over the map during the first two weekends, and Briggs said that the two weigh stations on the South end were consistently busy.

But by the final weekend activity moved north — mostly to Clover Pass and Knudson Cove, which is also where the busiest spots were last year.

The derby committee met Tuesday to finalize the results of the derby. Anglers had about seven days to lodge any protests.

As far as the derby goes, he said the committee will discuss options, but probably will be for coho again next year.

Ticket proceeds go to the Ketchikan CHARR scholarship fund. To date this fund has provided more than $100,000 in scholarships for students pursuing secondary education.

An awards banquet is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. The event will see the distribution of about $80,000 in prizes.