First place in Ship Creek king salmon derby goes to angler with a nearly 29-pounder, the smallest winning fish in the contest’s history

Sure, angler Gary Sipary may have caught the smallest winning fish in the history of Anchorage's annual Slam'n Salm'n Derby, but that fish still made him thousands of dollars richer.

Sipary was named this year's derby winner Saturday afternoon at the end of the week-long derby at Ship Creek, where anglers battle with king salmon in the shadow of a downtown skyline.

Sipary's king, at 28.95 pounds, was the heaviest fish entered into this year's contest, earning him a cache of gold and silver worth $4,000. The fish beat the previous tiniest Slam'n Salm'n champ: A 29.1-pounder caught by angler Jioji Lino in 2013. Last year, Michael Tinker won the derby with a heftier 36.2-pound salmon.

The derby is a fundraiser for the Downtown Hope Center, formerly called the Downtown Soup Kitchen.

This year's contest featured particularly small kings and few catches, said Mike Hidalgo, director of special projects at Microcom, one of the companies that sponsors the derby.

"This is the worst fishing year we've had since this tournament started," Hidalgo said Saturday afternoon. "Everything is different this year. Everything. Number of fish. Size of fish."

There were 98 kings caught and entered into this year's contest. In years past, Hidalgo said, he has seen that many kings caught in a single day.

Organizers Saturday said they had not yet totaled how much money the derby raised for the soup kitchen.

There's been a king salmon derby at Ship Creek since 1993.

Here are the Slam'n Salm'n champs dating back to 2004:

2017 — Michael Tinker, 36.2 pounds
2016 — Terrance Shanigan, 38.5 pounds
2015 — Maria Robinson, 37.55 pounds
2014 — Kirby Shurtz, 41.3 pounds
2013 — Jioji Lino, 29.1 pounds
2012 — Joshua Jones, 34.85 pounds
2011 — Derby not held
2010 — Chaunti Hall, 42.91 pounds
2009 — David Edmonds, 48.4 pounds
2008 — Robert Hayes, 41.0 pounds
2007 — Tom Salow, 42.1 pounds
2006 — Vinney Eben, 39.4 pounds
2005 — Craig Harrison, 50.2 pounds
2004 — Jim Lavrakas, 45.2 pounds

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.