You can look at Sunday's big catch in the Seward Silver Salmon Derby in one of two ways.
Either Phillip Lazenby of Kenai has slammed the door on other would-be contenders by reeling in a 19.15-pounder that ranks as one of the biggest fish in the derby's 56-year history -- or Resurrection Bay is teeming with monster silvers.
Folks at the Seward Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the derby, take the second approach. And perhaps with good reason.
Lazenby brought his fish -- which would have topped 51 of the previous 55 derbies, meaning only four derby winners have weighed in with bigger catches -- to the derby booth at the Seward boat harbor around 1 p.m., derby spokeswoman Cindy Clock said. A few hours later, Karen Pauley of Seal Beach, Calif., showed up with a 17.94-pound fish that would have won three of the eight previous derbies.
"I think there's lot of fat fish out there, for those two huge ones to come in on the second day," Clock said.
Lazenby, who Clock said was fishing on a private boat, found his fish at Caines Head. Pauley got hers on the east side of the bay.
Getting two big fish in one afternoon so early in the derby made for an exciting day, Clock said.
"We have to call the judges any time there's a fish over 16 pounds," she said. "The judge has to slice its belly open to make sure the fish hasn't been weighted."
Lazenby, like all derby anglers, can buy back his fish for $5 or donate it to the derby, which Clock said has a special permit to sell fish not reclaimed to Icicle Seafoods for $1.04 a pound. Money raised will be used to fund fish restoration projects, she said.
The nine-day derby, which attracts thousands of anglers, opened Saturday. Tim O'Brien of North Vancouver, British Columbia, had the day's biggest fish, a 14.82-pound silver caught at Rugged Island and two other anglers reeled in tagged fish.
Both tagged fish were worth $100, meaning the big-money silvers are still swimming. Of the 15 fish tagged, one is worth $50,000, one is worth $10,000, one is worth $5,000 and the rest pay $100.
The derby runs through noon Sunday. At stake is $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second and a variety of daily prizes. Tickets are $50 for the derby or $10 for a day and can be purchased at the derby booth at the Seward boat harbor.
Reach Beth Bragg at email@example.com or 257-4335.