When it comes to chasing the top prize at Seward’s Silver Salmon Derby, Steve Oyler has been at it for years.
Decades, in fact.
All that time on the water in and around Resurrection Bay finally paid off for the Anchorage resident. Oyler netted the winning fish in the derby, taking home a $10,000 prize Sunday for his 14.59-pound salmon.
“I was talking to my wife about that, we’ve been part of that derby since the early ‘80s,” Oyler said. “Not every year, but most years, but it’s a day here and a day there. Last year we entered the derby and fished the whole derby. This year, we did the same thing. We’ve been down there quite a bit and fished quite a bit.”
The derby, in its 67th year, ran from Aug. 13-21 and Oyler caught his fish Tuesday, Aug. 16. He said the weather was rough for much of the derby, including the day he caught the winner.
“We’d only had one fish in the boat that day and we got blown off,” he said. “We went to Caines Head and were trolling to Seward. We were 10 minutes away from pulling in our lines and going in to warm up and dry off.”
It was a big day for the whole family. His granddaughters Kayda and Payton Hellmich both turned 10 on the day he caught the fish, and were in Seward after recently moving to Alaska with their family.
“It’s going to be one of those family stories for the rest of my time and I’m guessing the rest of their time too,” Oyler said.
Kenneth Buteyn of San Mateo, California, was the runner-up with a 13.22-pound salmon caught on Friday. Anchorage’s Victoria Dunlap had the top fish in the women’s division and fourth overall at 12.85 pounds.
Despite fishing every day, Oyler said he and his wife Kathy, who has also fished the derby for decades, were trying to pick their spots.
“They call it pleasure-boating for a reason,” he said. “If it’s really nasty, we’re not going to go out.”
The derby had 1,480 anglers registered and and 7,788.54 total pounds of weight caught during the nine days.
Despite Oyler’s big win, his fishing duties aren’t over quite yet. His twin brother and family were flying into town Monday night, and Oyler was picking them up and taking them directly to Seward for more fishing Tuesday.
In the meantime, he’ll be doing his best to tame expectations.
“I always try to set the bar low for visitors,” he joked.
Seward Silver Salmon Derby
5 smallest winners
13.61 — David Frenier, 2020
14.03 — Ben Cheeseman, 2021
14.59 — Steve Oyler, 2022
15.01 — Jesse Morrison, 1958
15.04 — Gwenevere Hudson, 1965
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