Like hot air ballooning in Albuquerque or running a marathon in Boston, participating in the annual King Salmon Derby is the sporting event that defines the town of Ketchikan – with around 1,000 children and adults participating each spring. Even for folks who absolutely cannot leave work any other time of year – this is the event that gets them out on the water for three weekends in late May and early June.

King salmon hit town just after the snow melts and people are ready for the sunny days of summer. With temps in the 60s and 70s for the first time in months, the whole place comes alive. The diehards are out weeks ahead of time to see where the Kings are. Volunteers help out at the weigh-in stations and give hourly updates to the radio station, which airs these along with fish-ladder reports.

Participants aren’t just motivated by the fresh air and change of seasons, though. Local sponsors provide generous prizes worth thousands of dollars. Since the derby got its start in 1944, both the lucky and the skilled have enjoyed winning cash, new cars, and airline tickets to Mexico and Hawaii.

Another motivator is the chance to make history. Will anyone ever top the 1956 record holder Milton Fox for the 79-lb. King he landed on his little skiff? (With most derby grand prize Kings weighing in the 55-60 lb range, the 79-lb. record may stand for another 60 years).

Buying a ticket doesn’t ensure that you’ll land a salmon, but it does support the CHARR Education Fund which uses proceeds to benefit the community in a variety of ways.

Getting There

Coordinates
Latitude: 55.350551
Longitude: -131.679587

King Salmon Derby

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