When Robert Insley of East Wenatchee left for an August salmon trip aboard the charterboat Predator, he told his young daughter he was going to bring home “a fish as big as she is.”
Mission accomplished. And then some.
Saturday, Insley was presented his $10,000 check for the season’s largest Chinook salmon in the 2020 Westport Charterboat Association derby.
Insley weighed his catch at the Westport Weighmaster derby shack Aug. 19 after a trip with Predator captain Derek Gochanour. His 32.2-pound Chinook was the biggest derby winner in six years — a 34.31-pounder took the 2014 derby — and the first winning fish over 30 pounds since the 2015 derby. Keep in mind the weights are “dressed weights,” meaning the fish is gutted before weighing. Insley’s fish would have been around 35 pounds live weight.
The trip almost didn’t happen. Insley said he was trying to find an open slot and found out Gochanour had canceled a tuna trip, and replaced it with a salmon trip. Insley booked a spot.
Picking up his check, Insley said he kept one of the hooks from the fish and was going to make a necklace from it. That, and his Predator ball cap, will be his fishing good luck charm, he said. Gochanour said Insley, about an hour after hauling in his $10,000 fish, hooked into another Chinook that weighed about 25 pounds.
And yes, Insley is already planning return trips to Westport in 2021.
The derby has existed for more than 50 years, back to the days when it was limited to a single weekend. Now, the derby goes on daily during fishing seasons, with daily prizes for various species.
According to derby coordinator Karyl Vasereno, more than 40 sponsors signed on for the 2020 derby. The $10,000 Chinook grand prize was donated by Westport Shop N Kart, Brumfield Construction, Harbor Pacific Pepsi distributor, Rognlin’s Construction, Shoalwater Bay Casino, Washington Crab Producers and Westport Seafood.
“The Westport Charterboat Association is a non-profit corporation whose members are charterboat owners, operators, and booking services,” said Vasereno. “Our derby funds work with state, federal, and tribal fishery management entities, and others, to attain fishing seasons that are both people and fish friendly.”
Vasereno said the association is involved in the in-season management of quota-based fisheries and we participate in the gathering of scientific and statistical data required to manage the fisheries. It also works with the United States Coast Guard to ensure that fishing vessels are safe and comfortable.
“The future of our marine resources and public participation in the harvest depends on cooperation between the fishery managers and the harvesting community,” said Vasereno. “The Westport Charterboat Association is dedicated to that end.”
More winners announced
While the bottomfishing season goes through Oct. 17, prizes for the largest halibut, albacore tuna and coho salmon have been announced.
Ken Sheaffer of Milton will get $1,500 for a 12.45-pound coho caught Sept. 21 when he was fishing from the Tequila Too.
The $1,000 halibut top prize goes to Keith Nelson of Tulalip, who was fishing from the Angler when he hauled in the 63.9-pounder Aug 13.
Sean Gomez of Spokane booked a trip with the charterboat Blue Eyes Sept. 14 and caught a 32.9-pound albacore tuna, earning him the top $1,000 tuna prize.
There’s another $1,500 up for grabs in the lingcod derby, which ends Oct. 17. There have been seven fish over 30 pounds entered so far, with the lead held by a 35.25-pounder caught by Patrick Dougherty of Randle, caught aboard the Hula Girl June 12.
Salmon season wrap
Salmon fishing out of Marine Area 2 ended Sept. 30. According to Department of Fish and Wildlife catch reports, 4,820 Chinook were caught during the 2020 season, and 8,219 coho. The total number of anglers since the June 20 opener was 19,092, according to Fish and Wildlife counts.
COVID-19-related restrictions on the number of anglers allowed on charterboats and other limitations had numbers down from 2019. Last year, 23,465 anglers were reported, making 18.6 percent fewer anglers this year. The 2020 Chinook take was up substantially over 2019, when just 2,336 were reported taken by Fish and Wildlife. The 2019 coho catch was 20,221, more than double the 2020 catch.
Gochanour said, with a lengthy shutdown of all charter fishing by Gov. Jay Inslee due to COVID-19 concerns in the spring and other restrictions, his season was down by about 50%.