The largest ocean fishing derby on the Oregon coast will begin with the sounds of boat engines idling and fishermen swapping tales at 5 a.m. Friday morning as the 2011 Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby celebrates its eighth event in nine years.
Fishermen from all over the United States and the world will call the ocean waters out of the Port of Brookings Harbor home as they compete for $15,000 in cash and prizes.
The event offers more than just a respite for salmon-starved fishermen though, it offers a large vendor fair, a beer garden, a fishing tank for youth, and culminates in a salmon barbecue on Sunday.
Registration for the derby has been happening via the derby website and derby headquarters will open Thursday at noon for on-site registration, barbecue tickets and credential pickup.
The action begins Friday as soon as fishermen are on the water, but the derby headquarters will not open until 5 a.m., and the weigh station will not open until 8 a.m.
The festival and the beer garden open at 10 a.m., and will run until daily prizes are awarded at 6 p.m each day. All fishermen must be in line for the weigh station by 4 p.m. or they will not be allowed to weigh their fish.
As of Tuesday, more than 240 fisherman had signed up, according to derby spokeswoman Debby Phillips.
“It’s a little low,” Phillips said Tuesday evening. “But I signed up 34 more just today. They are rolling in.
“The Port RV park is completely sold out and Jim (Relaford) thinks that we’ll have at least 500 participants.”
Participants for the 2011 derby are coming from as far away as London to try to catch the $6,000 prize that is offered for biggest overall fish.
“We’ve got four gentlemen coming from London,” Phillips said. “We’ve got them coming from Montana, Utah, Cave Junction; all over the place.”
Phillips wasn’t positive as to why the derby appeals to fishermen from so far away, but speculated that it might have something to do with the size of the prize compared to the entry fee and the number of other prizes that are offered.
“This will be the first year that we have a national sponsor,” she said. “We got Cabella’s to sponsor the event and they treated us like royalty.”
There will be a number of drawings for prizes ranging from fillet knives to tackle boxes to rods and reels, she said.
If the 2011 derby is anything like prior years then competition for prizes will be fierce.
In 2010, derby founder Leroy Blodget took home the top prize of $5,000 and a champion’s ring valued at over $3,000, with a salmon weighing in at 36.3 pounds.
In 2009, A.K. Saadat took the $5,000 grand prize with his 39.8-pound Chinook.
In 2007, grand prize winner Cindy Carman of Medford took home the big purse with her 39.1-pound Chinook.
This year, the prize money is substantial. A total of $15,000 will be handed out, including $6,000 for first place, $2,500 for second and $1,000 for third.
There will also be a raffle for a 60-inch flat screen TV. Tickets are available at the event for $10 each and only 52 will be sold.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting clear and sunny weather with highs in the 70s for all three days of the derby.
The wind and water conditions, also provided by the NWS, for Friday are predicted to be 8 to 10 foot wind waves with a mixed swell of 3 feet. Saturday is predicted to be the same, but with a 6-foot swell building to 9 feet.
Sunday is predicted to have the lowest winds and waves with 10- to 15-knot winds and 3-foot wind waves in the morning subsiding to 2 feet, before building to 4 feet in the late afternoon.
Current updates on wind, water and weather conditions can be checked at the headquarters tent at the derby, or online at http://forecast. weather.gov. For non-fishing visitors, up-to-date coast forecasts can be found at the Pilot’s online weather station: http://weatherstation.currypilot.com.
Registration for the derby is $50 per person and each entry fee includes a salmon barbecue dinner on Sunday. The barbecue is open to everyone and costs $10 per person.
The Brookings-Harbor Mat Club, a youth wrestling league, will be holding a fundraiser by offering bag lunches to fishermen for a donation.
Interested fishermen can register at www.slamnsalmon.com or at the derby headquarters located on the boardwalk at the Port of Brookings Harbor up until the morning of the final day of fishing.
The Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby is a non-profit Oregon corporation. According to derby publications, the derby is committed to the sport of ocean salmon sport fishing and the enhancement of the salmon fishery as a whole. The bulk of funding comes from sponsors and registration fees. The largest contributor to the last three events was the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby began in 2003 when local businessmen Relaford and Blodget came up with the idea, deciding Labor Day weekend was the ideal time. With only six weeks to prepare for the event, Relaford and Blodgett were able to find 113 fishermen to participate in the inaugural derby, referred to as the Wild Rivers Coast Salmon Derby.
More than 200 salmon barbecue dinners were served using grills brought from homes. More than $1,000 in cash prizes were awarded, with about $200 left over.
For the 2004 derby, the prizes were increased to $11,000 with a grand prize of $5,000. The number of participants also skyrocketed from the first to second year, from 113 to 438 fishermen, and 700 salmon barbecue dinners.
In 2004, the current name of the derby, “Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby,” was adopted.
With the leftover money earned from the entry fees and sponsors, the derby committee donated the money to various fish enhancement programs, a tradition they continued in each derby thereafter.
More than 600 anglers swarmed Brookings in 2005, and the salmon barbecue served around 1,400 people, double the previous year.
The number of entries continued to climb in 2006, with 766 fishermen heading out to sea on the final day of fishing.
The event was changed in 2008 because a closure on the Chinook salmon fishery, but a non-fishing event was held to keep the tradition alive.
The derby roared back to life in 2009, when more than 640 anglers participated, and marked the last time the event organizers, Blodget and Relaford, helmed the event.
In 2010, the Port of Brookings Harbor took over as the event organizer while retaining the same group of volunteers as in previous years, which helped the event to go without a hitch, according to port manager Ted Fitzgerald.