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Fishing

20 years after dad's victory, Anchorage man wins Seward Silver Salmon Derby

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  • Updated: August 21, 2016
  • Published August 21, 2016

The Hanson family – 81-year-old Otto, 57-year-old David, 55-year-old Mike – was about to call it a day Friday afternoon while fishing for silvers in Resurrection Bay.

It was 2:20 p.m., they had been on the water for more than eight hours and they had caught just one coho. Mike was ready to head back to shore.

"I reeled in and said, 'Are we gonna call it good?' Dad said, 'Let's give it another 25 minutes.'

"He said to keep fishing till 2:45," Mike said. "I hooked it at 2:37."

On his last-gasp cast, Mike Hanson hooked the winner of the 61st annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby.

His 16.22-pound fish, caught with a hoochie at Tonsina Point, came on a big anniversary for the Anchorage family. An Alaskan might call it a silver anniversary.

Twenty years ago, Otto won the 1996 derby with a 17.42-pound coho.

"Leading up to this there was a whole lot of conversation, sort of a focus that this was the 20-year anniversary and hoping he would win again," Mike said. "In 20 years from now maybe one of my children can win it."

Don't bet against it. The derby has been very good to the Hansons, who head to Seward every August.

"This is our Olympics," Mike said.

Otto, who spends more time at his Ninilchik cabin than his Anchorage home, has been a derby regular for about 50 years. He arrives in Seward a week before the derby starts to procure the family a prime beachfront camping spot, Mike said.

David, captain of the Fishing Machine, from which the family fishes, placed 10th one year, and although Mike had never finished higher than 53rd until this year, his now-grown sons – Ryan and Hayden — have collected day money a couple of times.

"We've won a lot of different prizes," said Mike, an Anchorage attorney. "It's always a great place to come and fish."

But nothing rivals this year. Besides Mike's victory – worth $10,000 – Otto caught a tagged fish last week worth two roundtrip tickets on Alaska Airlines.
Back when Otto won the derby, he hooked the winner on the second-to-last day of the derby. He had already caught five silvers that Saturday, one short of his limit, when the big one bit.

"I actually netted his winning fish, which I always say is the hardest job," Mike said.

David netted this year's winner, which was caught two days before Sunday's final day of competition.

Once the fish was weighed at the Seward Boat Harbor on Friday afternoon, the waiting game began. There was plenty of time for someone to hook a bigger fish.

Didn't happen, but Howard Lazar of Anchorage came close. Lazar landed a 16.18-pound silver near Bear Glacier on Saturday to grab second place and $5,000 in the 10-day derby. Third place and $2,500 went to Nick Hunter and his 15.42-pound fish.

Mike said Otto is thinking about using his plane tickets to go to Seattle for some Mariners baseball. Mike has no immediate plans for his $10,000 prize, although with Hayden leaving Monday for his first year at Montana State University some of the money may be already earmarked. However, wife Lisa and daughter Marissa may have other ideas.

As for the winning fish, Mike said he'll get it mounted. Just like his dad did 20 years ago.

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