To win the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby, you don’t have to catch the largest coho, or even the second largest.
The Kenai derby is all about hitting the magic weight. City Manager Paul Ostrander said that’s to limit the number of salmon injured by catch and release fishing.
“When we first came up with the idea of this derby, we were trying to figure out a way to hold the derby where it wasn’t just about the big fish," he said. "Because when you have the big fish derby, what you will find is people will catch and release their fish during the course of the day, looking for the biggest fish to give them the best chance to win. And we wanted to discourage catch and release fishing.”
The fifth-annual derby starts Tuesday and runs until Sept. 19. Any Kenai River coho that’s over 4 pounds is eligible to win. A spinning wheel will decide the random winning weight each day.
The city of Kenai has been upping the ante on prizes for winners every season. This year’s overall adult winner will take home $5,000, and their under-18 counterpart will get $1,000. Adult and kid anglers who hit the daily magic weights can take home $100 and $50, respectively.
Half of entry fees and sponsorship money will go toward habitat projects that benefit the river.
“What we’ve been doing over the course of the first four years of the derby is trying to accumulate enough money in the account to initiate our first habitat project," Ostrander said. "So none of the money has been spent to date.”
That money is stored with the Kenai Community Foundation. Ostrander said there’s already several thousand dollars in that account and he thinks, after this year, they’ll have enough money to do their first habitat project.
He said the details of that project, and who will be doing the work, is still to be determined.
Ostrander said he’ll be throwing his own rod in the ring.
“The silver fishing has been really good on the river this year," he said. "Hopefully that continues. And we always pray for nice weather then, too.”
Tickets for the derby are $10 for one day and $50 for the whole derby. They’re on sale Monday at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, Three Bears in Kenai and Sportsman’s Warehouse in Soldotna.