Teenage angler nets top prize at Port Alberni salmon derby

The 2022 salmon derby winners. From left to right: Scott Clydesdale, Justin McKay and Bob Matlock. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)The 2022 salmon derby winners. From left to right: Scott Clydesdale, Justin McKay and Bob Matlock. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Derby winner Justin McKay accepts his $10,000 cheque from Carolyn Jasken and Dan Washington. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Derby winner Justin McKay accepts his $10,000 cheque from Carolyn Jasken and Dan Washington. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Jasmine Wilson, with a hand-painted fish, takes a turn at the wheel from the Salmon Enhancement Society while Shirley Shiner looks on. (SONJA DRINKWATER / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Jasmine Wilson, with a hand-painted fish, takes a turn at the wheel from the Salmon Enhancement Society while Shirley Shiner looks on. (SONJA DRINKWATER / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Fireworks lit up the sky above the Alberni Harbour on Friday, Sept. 2 to mark the start of Salmon Fest. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Fireworks lit up the sky above the Alberni Harbour on Friday, Sept. 2 to mark the start of Salmon Fest. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Fireworks lit up the sky above the Alberni Harbour on Friday, Sept. 2 to mark the start of Salmon Fest. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Fireworks lit up the sky above the Alberni Harbour on Friday, Sept. 2 to mark the start of Salmon Fest. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Clark Reed, visiting from Cochrane, Alberta, caught a 23.1 pound fish at China Creek on a little pink hooch. (PHOTO COURTESY JAMES CLARK)Clark Reed, visiting from Cochrane, Alberta, caught a 23.1 pound fish at China Creek on a little pink hooch. (PHOTO COURTESY JAMES CLARK)
Christian Manson helps to serve up the salmon dinner on Labour Day weekend. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Christian Manson helps to serve up the salmon dinner on Labour Day weekend. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Joelle Servatius sings in the Salmon Fest karaoke competition on Sunday, Sept. 4. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Joelle Servatius sings in the Salmon Fest karaoke competition on Sunday, Sept. 4. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Tanner Provencal arrived at the weigh station with this catch just minutes before it closed. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Tanner Provencal arrived at the weigh station with this catch just minutes before it closed. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

A teenage angler picked up the top prize at Port Alberni’s salmon derby this year.

Justin McKay of Port Alberni, 14 years old, picked up the $10,000 first prize with his 27.1 pound fish, caught in the harbour on the second day of the derby. According to Carolyn Jasken of the Alberni Valley Tyee Club, he is the all-time youngest winner of the derby.

“I can’t believe it,” said McKay on Monday, Sept. 5. “It feels like I’m in a dream.”

McKay said he and his mother have been taking part in the salmon derby since he was very young, but this was his first time winning.

“I was on my phone playing a game, then I looked up and our top rod went off,” he explained.

He and his mom had to chase the fish under multiple boats before they finally reeled it in and netted it. The process took about five minutes in all, said McKay.

But the effort was worth it, as McKay had the largest fish caught all weekend. He already has plans to buy a dirt bike with his prize winnings.

“And I’ll take my mom and stepdad out for dinner,” he added. “That’s a lot of money for a 14-year-old.”

The Alberni Valley Tyee Club announced earlier this year that they would be taking on the Labour Day salmon derby this year. The club would focus on the derby, with hopes that a festival would re-grow around it. Jasken said there were approximately 1,500 fishers in all at this year’s derby.

Despite some concern that the “festival” portion of Salmon Fest would be cancelled this year, volunteers and sponsors managed to put together a “mini fest” for the weekend.

The Sugar Shak put on a fireworks show from Centennial Pier on Friday, with sponsorship from the Folkfest Multicultural Society, Paper Excellence and San Group. A few local musicians donated their music for the weekend, and Alberni Teens Can Rock hosted a karaoke competition on Sunday afternoon. The Little and Robinson families put on a salmon dinner for the weekend, and the Community Arts Council offered an art project for kids with help from Art Rave, the Alberni Valley Enhancement Association and San Group.

“It’s been phenomenal,” said Jasken. “A giant seed has been planted for next year.”

Salmon Derby Winners:

Saturday—

1. Scott Clydesdale (26.2)

2. Bob Leyland (23.6)

3. Roger Kattai (22.5)

Sunday—

1. Justin McKay (27.1)

2. Clark Reed (23.1)

3. Barrie Cozens (22.6)

Monday—

1. Bob Matlock (21.6)

2. Dawn Stevenson (20.6)

3. Dave Williams (18.9)

Gone Fishin’ in Port Alberni is keeping track of winning hidden weights, and prizes were available at the shop (4985 Johnston Road).

Port Alberni