Not even COVID-19 could stop the 49th edition of the Port Alberni Salmon Derby held over the Labour Day weekend, but it was a closer call than most participants might have realized.
As COVID fears escalated through early 2020 the organizers decided to cancel the traditional Salmon Fest portion of the event because of concerns for potential spread of the virus. So, the derby was left in limbo until July when Al Ehrenberg from the Gone Fishin’ Shop along with Bob Cole, retired long time Port Alberni business owner, and Carolyn Jaskens, who heads the Port Alberni Tyee Club, put their minds together and decided to do it, but in such a way that respected social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols.
The organizing committee received great support from local businesses like Gone Fishin’ Shop, Port Boathouse, Canadian Tire, Breakers Marine, LA Marine, Alberni Power and Marine, and Parksville Boathouse. Consequently they were able to raise enough money to offer $33,500 in prizes. Top prizes featured $5,000 for the biggest fish for each day and an additional $5,000 for the overall winner. Second and third places picked up $2,000 and $1,000 respectively. There was also an excellent selection of hidden weight prizes. Anything that was left over went to local salmon enhancement. Initially, they had planned on 1,000 participants but the demand was so high they had to print another 750 tickets, which produced about the same participation level as the 2019 event. Anglers even came from as far away as the mainland.
Long time volunteers from the Tyee Club manned the three weigh in stations and according to Al Ehrenberg, “The great weather and the chance to get out on the water more than made up for the smaller than expected catch”. Al went on to explain that, “The derby dates were about a week later than usual; both commercial and native fisheries had already occurred and many fish were already in the river. The greatest numbers of Chinook were holding in the harbor area where their bite pattern can be finicky, while the bigger sized fish came from Barkley Sound”. That’s a tip that next year’s participants might want to note because Al indicated that the organizers are definitely going ahead with its 50th edition in 2021.
- Adam Dombrowski ~ 33.4
- Tanner Hodgson ~ 33.0
- Davis Mayo ~ 32.12