By Chad Robert Snyder

Pilot staff writer

For a charter fisherman, the decision to take a personal day and fish with a longtime friend comes at a cost.

But the investment paid off.

North Bend resident Dave Lehton dragged - quite literally, in a childrens' wagon, up the boat launch - in the winner of Sporthaven's annual Hawg Derby on Oct. 11.

The 52-pound, 8-ounce Chinook measured 46 1/2 inches and was still andquot;talkingandquot; when Lehton got him on the scales.

First place in the derby netted Lehton the $2,310 prize.

Lehton, a charter boat owner, generally takes clients out for the derby, but this year decided to take his best friend, Joe Huffman, out for their chance at the big prize.

After hooking the fish at 10:30A.M. Saturday, both men fought the fish and the elements for 30 minutes in an attempt to boat the beast.

As Lehton said, the fish ran hard to the west and forced the men - in Lehton's new boat, dubbed the Lady Joanne, after his daughter - to back the boat up more than a half mile. Fortunately for both, they made all the right moves.

Lehton and Huffman were beaming when they got off the boat, fish jawing away in its makeshift transport.

andquot;We had more fun than I've ever had before,andquot; Lehton said.

When asked if he'd considered leaving clients behind again and taking his friends Lehton answered definitively.

andquot;Yes. That's what I love to do, andquot; he said. andquot;I'm getting along in years, and it's time to have some fun.andquot;

The derby, despite being considerably shortened this year, was a success, accordingly to Sportshaven Marina's owner Mike Ramsay.

andquot;Considering the fact we had only two days it was a good derby,andquot; Ramsay said. andquot;Maybe Oregon Fish and Wildlife was on the right track closing the river to give the fish a breather.andquot;

Ramsay said the fish that came in this year were testament to that.

andquot;We saw more 40-pounders in those two days than we did in the last four years,andquot; he said.