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Originally published Friday, January 25, 2013 at 3:44 PM

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Fishing derbies in Puget Sound making a comeback

Northwest Salmon Derby Series kicks off with the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9, the first of 15 spread across Western Washington.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Salmon fishing derbies in Puget Sound date more than 80 years, and there has been a resurgence the past decade with the Northwest Salmon Derby Series.

The series kicks off this year with the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 7-9, and there are 14 more spread across Western Washington.

"The derby series is a terrific event, and allows us a chance to promote boating and sport fishing throughout the year," said George Harris, president of the Northwest Marine Trade Association, which supports the series. "The great salmon fishing, and increased number of days you can actually fish in Washington the past six years has really helped boost interest."

The series' inaugural season was 2004, when it conducted six derbies that drew about 5,000 anglers.

Derby coordinators are expecting up to 10,000 anglers this season, compared to 7,000 for the 14 events last year.

Harris pointed out that the derbies are designed to target healthy runs of hatchery-marked salmon.

"There is this big misconception that all our fisheries are closed to protect endangered salmon, and that is far from the truth," Harris said. "We've got a lot of areas open for salmon year-round, and it can be very good fishing at times."

To boost interest, the derby series gives away a fishing boat during a raffle held at the Everett Coho Derby — the largest derby on the West Coast — which usually has about 2,500 participants. Anglers who enter events leading up to the Everett Derby are eligible for the drawing.

The grand prize this season is a donated $60,000 21-foot River Hawk aluminum boat with a 150-horsepower four-stroke Mercury motor. The boat is on display at the Seattle Boat Show Sunday through Feb. 3 at the CenturyLink Field and Events Center.

Many other prizes and awards will be given away this season. At the upcoming Roche Harbor Derby, the largest salmon caught is worth $10,000, and if someone is lucky enough to catch a fish over 30 pounds they'll earn another $30,000.

Derby schedule

Roche Harbor Salmon Classic, Feb. 7-9; Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby, Feb. 16-18; Everett Blackmouth Derby, March 16; Bellingham Salmon Derby, July 12-14; Harbor Marine Salmon Derby in Everett, July 28-29; South King County Puget Sound Anglers Salmon Derby at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Aug. 3; Gig Harbor Puget Sound Anglers Salmon Derby, Aug. 10; South Sound Salmon Derby in Olympia, Aug. 17; Vashon Island Pink Salmon Derby, Aug. 24; Willapa Bay Salmon Derby in Tokeland, Aug. 31; Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby in Vancouver, Aug. 31-Sept. 1; Edmonds Coho Derby, Sept. 7; Everett Coho Derby, Sept. 21-22; Bayside Marine Salmon Derby in Everett, Nov. 2-3; and Resurrection Salmon Derby in Friday Harbor, Dec. 6-7. For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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