The Sitka Salmon Derby ended this weekend, after five days of fishing spread across two weekends. And after the final fish were weighed, the two top slots on the leaderboard were taken by a mother-daughter team.
Eight-year-old Gemma Diehl won the derby, with a 51.4-lb king salmon nearly as long as she is tall.
KCAW: So, tell me how it feels to have won the 2014 derby?
Gemma Diehl: Exciting!
Gemma caught her fish on Memorial Day, during the first weekend of fishing. She beat out her mom, Sherry Diehl, who had landed a 48.4-lb king earlier that same weekend.
KCAW: How does it feel to be topped by your daughter in the Sitka Salmon Derby?
Sherry Diehl: I couldn’t be happier.
So happy, Sherry says, that she was jumping up and down in the boat when the fish was netted.
This was Sherry’s first time cracking the top three on the leaderboard, but it wasn’t Gemma’s. At her first-ever derby, when she was just six years old, Gemma took third place in the kids’ derby, for fishermen 15 and under. Last year, at age seven, she took third place in the kids’ division. She came into this year hoping to win first in the kids’ derby. And that she did — blowing all of the adults out of the water along the way.
The derby is a family affair for the Diehls. Gemma’s grandfather, Harvey Kitka, is a two-time derby winner. Sherry, who is 28, has been fishing in the derby since she was Gemma’s age.
KCAW: So what’s your secret as a family? You guys seem to do pretty well at the derby.
SD: That’s all my dad. He has all the secrets. We have to relearn everything every summer. [laughs]
Gemma’s first place prize is $7,500 — and a pair of Alaska Airlines tickets. So where is she going to fly? Disneyland, of course. Sherry says they plan to go this Christmas.
Mike Davis took third place in the salmon derby, with a 41.7-lb king. He was followed by Garrett Smith in fourth place, with a 37.7 pounder.
In the kids’ derby, Kaylin Gardner took second place, with a 25.2-lb king. Kyleigh McArthur took third place, with a 20.2-lb fish, and Taylor Gardner took fourth place with a 20-pounder.
Kenneth Gray was the total pounds leader, with fifteen fish weighing in at 270.4-lbs altogether.
In all, 164 people participated in the derby, catching a total of 612 fish over five days, with an average weight of 15.6-lbs.
The Sitka Salmon Derby awards ceremony will take place in Harrigan Centennial Hall on June 12th, at 7 PM.