By Josh Bronson
Pilot staff writer
Fishermen were met by sunny skies and calm seas on the final day of the fifth annual Slam'n Salmon Ocean Derby.
Around 730 entrants from 18 different states headed out of the Port of Brookings Harbor Sunday afternoon to flat seas and phenomenal fishing.
"Some of the finest fishing in the world is right here," organizer Jim Relaford said. "If you're a fishermen, it's pretty much paradise."
Sunday was the best day of fishing during the three-day event, with anglers bringing in 377 fish weighing 3,441 pounds, which was more than the first two days combined.
For the derby, 749 fish were caught for a total weight of 6,005 pounds, which is the most fish caught in the five year history of the event.
"We averaged close to one fish per person, which is great," Relaford said. "The thing that surprised me the most was that the average weight was down quite a bit. We had a lot of small fish this year and had about an 8-pound average."
The largest fish of day one, a 39.1-pounder caught by Cindy Carman of Medford, held up over the next two days as the largest fish of the derby, which netted her the $5,000 grand prize and the custom gold ring.
Carman became the first woman to win the derby, or even to place in the top three, and joined past winners Ken Tanksley (2006), Dan Ambrose (2005), John "Hummer" Parke (2004) and Art Selby (2003) on stage for a round of applause from the crowd.
"I think it's just great that she won," Relaford said. "One of the reasons people love this derby is because it's a family affair. Maybe this will encourage more wives to get out there and fish."
The new queen of the salmon derby accepted her grand prize check with a smile and a princess wave and showed that women can fish too.
Carman gave the custom gold ring to Bill Doty, the captain of the Double D, the boat on which Carman caught her prize winning salmon.
Geoff Sanders, Saturday's big fish winner, won $2,500 for second place overall with his 34.4-pound salmon.
And Sunday's winner, Jeff Roberts, was awarded an extra $1,000 for taking third place overall with his 33.3-pound Chinook.
Another $1,000 prize was given out to Ed Bittle, who had the largest combined weight over the three day event with 85.7 pounds.
Along with numerous other prizes, organizers awarded the "Almost 28-pound Salmon" award in memory of Lee Faust, who passed earlier this year.
Faust was always the first person to register for the derby and entry #1 was retired in his honor.
Another woman, Jalene Brierley, made a splash at the derby by winning the total combined weight on Sunday, with two fish weighing in at 51.1 pounds.
Brierley also took home the third place award for largest individual fish with a 30.3-pound Chinook.
Jason Testa took second place on Sunday with a 32.5-pound salmon.
On Saturday, anglers reeled in 233 fish, led by Saunders, who won $250 for the largest individual fish and $150 for the second most combined weight.
Ed Bittle's 30.1 pounder was good enough for second on the day and helped him toward his two fish total of 58.5 pounds, which gave him first place in combined weight on the day.
The third largest fish was a tie, with Richard Marsing and Eldon Wilson both snagging a 29.4 pound Chinook.