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Waiting game ends with $10,000 payday for Big Lake angler

  • Author: Beth Bragg
    | Sports
  • Updated: August 20, 2017
  • Published August 20, 2017

C.H. Schroeder shows off the winning fish of the 62nd annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby, a 15.2-pound coho he caught Thursday at the head of Resurrection Bay. (Photo courtesy C.H. Schroeder)

For C.H. Schroeder of Big Lake, victory in the 62nd annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby was a classic case of hurry up and wait.

It started Thursday with a dash to the derby booth after he caught a 15.2-pound fish near the head of Resurrection Bay — a fish he believed was big enough to finish in the money.

"It was roll the gear and make a beeline to (the derby booth)," Schroeder said.

Then came a long wait to see if anyone could catch a bigger fish before the derby ended at noon Sunday.

"That was a long two-and-a-half days," Schroeder said. "All of Friday and all of Saturday and half of Sunday seeing if we were gonna hold onto the lead. There was a lot of derby left.

"You try not to think about it."

By noon Sunday, the fish was still the leader and Schroeder, a 64-year-old retired aircraft maintenance worker, was $10,000 richer.

"It's pretty exciting," he said. "I've fished for, like, 20 years down here and to actually hit it? I can't say it's redemption. It's satisfaction."

Schroeder said he and Deb Johnson fished every day of the nine-day derby from his boat, The Blackbird. He was fishing with herring when he hooked the winner.

"It just came in like a heavy fish; you knew you had something on," he said. "The big part was when you actually get it somewheres near the boat and actually lay eyes on it and you know – pardon the expletives – this is a big fish. Then it's game-on to get it on the boat."

The fish fought for about 10 minutes before Johnson netted it, Schroeder said. The fish wasn't particularly long, he said, but it had a lot of girth.

Of the 2,158 fish entered this year, Schroeder's was the only one that topped 15 pounds.

It's the fifth smallest winner since the derby began in 1956. No fish smaller than 15 pounds has ever won, and in 62 years only five winners have weighed less than 16 pounds.

"I've caught bigger ones," said Schroeder.

In the 2008 derby, he hooked a 16.82-pound fish and didn't come close to winning. First place that year went to an 18.57-pound coho.

The derby record is Shirley Baysinger's 22.24-pound monster in 2002. The smallest winner came in 1958, when Jesse Morrison caught a 15.01-pounder.

The average weight of this year's entries was about 7.5 pounds. The derby's 2,158 silvers weighed a combined 15,813 pounds, according to Cindy Clock of the Seward Chamber of Commerce.

Only one of the derby's 15 tagged fish was caught, but it was a valuable one. Ian Wetherhorn of Houston drove off with a 2017 Chevy Silverado after hooking a 3.62-pound tagged fish on Monday,

Schroeder said that during the long wait to see if his fish would pay off, he didn't spend time dreaming about how he'd spend $10,000.

"You don't think about that," he said. "Maybe I'll buy some bait."

2017 top five

15.20 pounds – C.H. Schroeder, Big Lake ($10,000)
14.92 pounds — Blaine McBain, Anchorage ($5,000)
14.68 pounds — Michelle Gabriel, Soldotna ($2,500)
14.00 pounds — Darwin Aho, Wasilla ($1,000)
13.96 pounds — Jennifer Shelton, Soldotna ($750)

5 biggest winners

22.24 — Shirley Baysinger, 2002

21.25 — Taro Rich, 2013

20.59 — John Westlund, 1994

20.14 — Bill Bixby, 2000

19.79 — Renee James, 2004

5 smallest winners

15.01 — Jesse Morrison, 1958

15.04 — Gwenevere Hudson, 1965

15.08 — William Kupfer, 1956

15.09 — Miriam Thom, 1970

15.20 — C.H. Schroeder, 2017

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