The winner of the 66th Annual Sitka Salmon Derby caught only one fish over five days of fishing — in fact, he got only one strike — but it was enough to win him over $6,000 in cash, and another $2,500 in prizes.
Fishing can be pretty good in Sitka, but there are days when it can be spotty. The 2021 Sitka Salmon Derby was a test of Charlie Skultka Sr.’s patience.
“It was four days before we even got a bite,” said Skultka, “and that’s the only bite we got the whole derby.”
But it was the right bite. Skultka fishes out of a 20-foot aluminum skiff, in an area that a lot of people run right by, on their way to Salisbury Sound. It’s the north arm of Nakwasina Sound.
Skultka says that going where others aren’t is his strategy.
“I just try to find a place where there’s no big crowd of people and go to work,” said Skultka. “Because you can find them anywhere.”
2021 Sitka Salmon Derby Winners
1.Charlie Skultka Sr. – 36.8 lbs
2. Patrick Davis – 35.8 lbs
3. Keri Gray- 33 lbs
4. Renee Wheat – 30.7 lbs
5. Kevin Maine – 30.5 lbs
6. Kathy Miller – 30 lbs
7. Jared Nelson – 29.8 lbs
8. Aaron Swanson – 27.8 lbs
9. Jameson Doggett – 27.5 lbs
10. Dale Lindstrom – 26.9 lbs
Total Pounds Leaders
1. Keri Gray – 269 lbs
2. Riley Bernhardt – 247.1 lbs
3. Brian LaBlanc – 215.2 lbs
4. Gary Bernhardt – 174.2 lbs
5. Kenny Gray 168.5 lbs
6. Michael Pountney – 166.9 lbs
7. Michael Smith Jr. – 136.4 lbs
8. Neil Akana – 126.3 lbs
9. Kathy Miller – 117.8 lbs
10. Clarence Boord – 117.2 lbs
Skultka caught the fish on Saturday (6-5-21) on a spoon, after fishing most of the derby on a herring. He says he knew it was big when it came up alongside the boat and he noticed the distance between the dorsal fin and the tail, which he estimated was longer than the overall length of a legal 28-inch king salmon.
The fish weighed in at 36 pounds 8 ounces, exactly one pound more than the salmon caught by Patrick Davis, which had led the derby to that point.
Skultka will claim the $6,000 grand prize for his salmon, an additional $250 for having the heaviest fish of the day turned in by a member of the Sitka Sportsman Association, and two roundtrip tickets on Alaska Airlines anywhere it flies, with no blackout dates — a prize valued at upward of $2,500.
Skultka has been in the money before, finishing in 3rd place a few years ago, but this is the first time in 30 years of derby fishing that he’s won the top prize.
His plan for his winnings is straightforward.
“Spend it,” he said.
Skultka’s winning salmon bumped Davis’s into second place. He’ll take home $400 and a Mercury 9.9 kicker. Kerri Gray will take home $300 in cash and Honda 2.3 kicker.
In all, 425 Fish were turned in by 124 participants. The average weight of the fish turned in was 14 pounds, 5 ounces.
The Derby Awards Ceremony will be held at Harrigan Centennial Hall on
Thursday, June 17 at 7pm.