Exciting Finish At Roche Harbor Salmon Classic In San Juans


The 13th annual Roche Harbor Salmon Classic took place last weekend. Fishing was pretty darn slow for most anglers. Blake Stiller from Anacortes led most of the day Friday and almost all of Saturday with a 16.6lber.

While everyone tried to stay awake on Saturday during long dry spells, things got real exciting real quick in the last 30 minutes. With half an hour left to go in the tournament, we checked in a fish with the head check boat, and they had some interesting news. “Got an update for ya…Pete Nelsen 17.2, new leader”. Well, we couldn’t help but cheer. Ol’ Pete’s a good friend, and he was fishing with Jay Field, whose a brother to me. Heck, Jay, the “Reverend Captain”, married my bride and I, so I owe him one. If you’ve met her, you’d understand why.

But, I digress. For the uninitiated, Pete Nelsen has won over 30 derbies in the San Juan’s. Let that sink in for a minute. And  Jay, who is a former charter skipper, and great angler, has never taken the top spot in one. Let that also sink in. It’s very difficult to take first in a major tournament, and to do it more than once…mind boggling.

So, just when we were ready to give it up for Pete, we trolled by the check boat again. “Just heard that zone 4 checked a big fish…they’re running for the scales”! Oh, man. This would be a nail biter. So in the final minutes, Pete got bumped by Duke Fisher’s 17lb 12 oz Chinook  for the $10,000 1st prize.

These derbies are so fun and exciting because of finishes like this. And, it happens a lot. Thanks so much to Roche Harbor for another great event. Thanks also to the Northwest Salmon Derby Series, who help make all the derbies happen. It was great to see everybody again…old friends and new. If you haven’t participated in one of the events on the derby series, you should. It’s a blast.

Top Placings:

1st     Duke Fisher 17.12    $10,000
2nd   Pete Nelsen 17.02   $5000
3rd   Blake Stiller 16.60     $2500
Total Boat Weight: Derek Floyd 48lbs 9oz




1.       Well, it happens every year. Day before a big derby, someone nails a hog. This year it was Erol and Cheryl Turanciol with this 21lber. Ouch. They’re wishing they had that one on Friday.



2.       Pete Nelsen of Shaw Island darn near pulled it off again with this 17lb fish. Well, $5000 for second ain’t bad. Uncle Pete also furthered his widely recognized reputation as the old G.O.A.T., or Greatest of All Time. Best there is, was and prolly ever will be. The Legend, bubba.

roche derby 2


3.       Let’s go get ‘em! Teams run out of Roche on their way to the fishing grounds. Hatchery Chinook provide clipped stocks for us to fish on in these events, and also are a big boost to business’s and the community this time of year. The anti-hatchery zealots would strive to shut down recreational fishing it would seem, and all the economic benefits, license fees, jobs, and fun that goes with it. I’m not sure what they have against Orcas either, but it sure seems like they’re trying to cut off a major food supply for them. We need to start taking a hard look at real issues that are responsible for declining stocks, such as the recent study showing significant predation on juvenile salmon by booming Harbor Seals populations, as well as many others. There are many, many other issues that we should be focusing on that will do real good. Recreational anglers keeping hatchery fish isn’t one of them. Please do what you can to get involved. Strength in numbers.



4.       Chuck Payne and Greg Gorder working as a team to land a potential derby winner. There’s a sense of excitement leading up to these tournaments that’s hard to beat.



5.       Duke Fisher and team with the $10,000 top  fish. They are good guys as well as good fishermen, and deserved a win. Lots of folks like this around, who have been dedicated, but never won. I’ve been lucky enough to have been on the winning team in the Roche twice. When I say lucky, I mean it…but man…what a rush.

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