Wrangell’s 2021 King Salmon Derby winner, 16-year-old Trevor Acker, with the winning fish.
(Courtesy Leslie Cummings)

A 16-year-old from California, visiting Alaska for the first time, took home the top prize in Wrangell’s King Salmon Derby. 

Trevor Acker hooked the winning chinook on June 17th near Found Island, south of Wrangell. It weighed in at 36.9 pounds. 

Acker won the top prize of $3,000 for the catch. 

This was the first year since 2017 that Wrangell ran a king salmon derby. Planned derbies for 2018, 2019 and 2020 were switched to target coho salmon, over concerns about king salmon returns in those years. 

The community was able to host a king salmon derby this year by changing the timing to fit within the current, more restrictive sportfish guidelines for the area. And, says the area’s sportfish biologist Patrick Fowler, those guidelines were actually made more restrictive over the course of the derby, as region-wide sport harvest of king salmon was overshooting the target set by regulators and the Pacific Salmon treaty with Canada. 

“After looking at early-season data and looking at how many fish are being landed in the various ports, we basically determined that we needed to change sport fishing regulations in order to keep the sport fishery within its allocation,” Fowler said.

Fowler added that a full look at the makeup of king salmon populations won’t be available until the end of the season. But he says that preliminary harvest data from the department’s creel samplers shows that fishing has been similar to last year, in terms of places fish are being caught, and also the number of kings caught by sport fishermen. 

For Wrangell’s king salmon derby this year, Found Island, where the winner Acker caught his prize fish, was the most successful spot. Three of the top 10 fish were reeled in near Found Island. 

Randy Churchill took second place with a 36-pound salmon caught near Found Island, winning $1,500. 

And Steve Keller took third place and $1,000 with a 32-pound chinook from the Bradfield Canal. 

With the derby wrapped up on June 30, Fowler says he’s looking ahead to the later part of the king season, and the July 15 opening of District 8 — the waters surrounding Petersburg, Wrangell and the mouth of the Stikine River. 

“By that time, our Southeast Alaska wild stocks — Andrews Creek and the Stikine — largely have passed through the fisheries. So we have less concerned about our harvest on those stocks,” Fowler said, continuing: “I guess all that to say is we’ll kind of be monitoring our harvest through the rest of the season, and there’s always a chance we might have to change sportfishing regulations again, in order to keep sportfish within its allocation — or increase opportunity, if we have a lot of fish left on the table.”

In total, derby organizers say they sold 316 derby tickets, and weighed in 51 fish over the course of the 15-day derby. 



FINAL DERBY LADDER: As of 9 PM 6/30/2021

2021 King Salmon Kids Ladder:

1. Parker Mork            23.7lbs      Nemo         6/27

2. Titan Churchill         20.9lbs     Anita Bay     6/15

3. Kendyl Lachepelle    17.4lbs      Bend          6/25

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