Every year, the Northwest Salmon Derby Series gets better, and every year there seem to be better stories! Congratulations to Joel Clark, who can no longer say he never wins anything, and to young Jackson Girard. Kudos to all the derby organizers, the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA), River Hawk Boats and all the other sponsors. Here’s the story from the NMTA:
Joel Clark was thinking about football, not fishing, when he got a call that caught him off-guard.
Clark was watching the Seattle Seahawks game on Sunday, Sept. 21, when a friend called from the awards ceremony at the Everett Coho Derby, the grand finale of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series. The friend had good news: Clark had won the series’ grand prize, a fully outfitted 21-foot River Hawk aluminum fishing boat with trailer worth around $65,000. Clark was shocked.
“I never win anything,” said Clark, who lives in Monroe, Wash. “I don’t even win on scratch [lottery] tickets.”
Twenty-some miles away in Lynnwood, Wash., the Girard family was also about to get some happy news. Jackson Girard, 6, won the derby series’ kids division boat, a 14-foot River Hawk on a trailer valued at around $18,000. When the family got the call, jubilation erupted.
“Both my kids were freaking out, and I thought I was going to pass out,” said Arick Girard, Jackson’s father. “We were super excited.”
The two winners were chosen by raffle from among 6,500 youth and adult anglers who fished in 14 derbies from last November through September. The boats are given away at the Everett derby since it’s considered the granddaddy of the series, typically drawing upward of 2,000 anglers over its two days.
The Northwest Salmon Derby Series was started in 2004 by the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) to promote salmon fishing in the region. It had six derbies the first year, eventually growing to the current 14. The NMTA has expanded the series with derbies that are wild fish-friendly, held when hatchery chinook and coho are available. Some derbies have been restricted to hatchery fish only, and organizers work with government agencies to protect wild stocks.
“We are committed to ensuring that the derby series is sustainable for both anglers and wild fish stocks,” NMTA President George Harris said. “A collaborative approach, working alongside regulatory agencies, is the way to achieve that.”
River Hawk Boats, based in White City, Ore., has been one of the series’ main sponsors for four years, providing grand prize boats each year and adding a kids division boat this year for the first time in an effort to cultivate the next generation of anglers. Company President Phillip Cam said the Northwest’s rich variety of boating opportunities makes the derby series “the premier” event of its type in the United States.
“The amount of water resources that we can use for boating in the Northwest is unparalleled, whether it’s just cruising and enjoying a family day on the water, crabbing or chasing salmon around,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to promote boating here.”
The series’ other sponsors include Allstate Boat Insurance, Mercury Marine, BoatUS TRAILER ASSIST, HarborWare and FishUSA.com.
For Clark, the boat win was a bright light during a difficult time. His 6-month-old daughter, Grace, was recently diagnosed with blindness caused by a rare eye disease. Clark decided to participate in the derby after learning about the Everett Central Lions Club’s annual derby for blind people.
The boat, Clark said, will provide a way for the family — including his wife and their 3-year-old son — to spend some quality time outdoors together.
“We’re going to use it to go fishing and camping with the kids,” he said. “We’re excited.”
Girard said he’s been trying to convince his wife for years that the family of four needs a small fishing boat, but to no avail.
“She wasn’t buying off on that,” he said, laughing. “Now we’ll be able to get out fishing a lot more often, which is fantastic. Both of our kids love fishing.”