GARDINER — Mark Thompson of Clinton caught the winning fish in the 2019 Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby early Friday morning.
Then, he had to sit and wait it out for three days, hoping no one would catch a bigger fish.
Thompson won by a large margin, catching a 19.35-pound blackmouth mid-channel in Marine Area 9 and weighed at the Port Townsend weigh station. That ended up being the biggest fish by nearly 5½ pounds.
When asked if he thought he might already have a winning fish when he caught it around 9:30 a.m. Friday, the first day of the derby, Thompson said, “yeah … it crossed my mind.”
Thompson said he checked after about 3 p.m. Saturday and saw that his catch was still in first place by a large margin. Then on Sunday, he was checking the catch results “about every five minutes” as the 1 p.m. deadline approached.
Thompson, who was fishing with friend Mark Brenner, won $10,000 for his first-place fish. He said he and his wife plan to spend it on a trip to see their grandchildren in North Carolina.
Don Hansen of Port Angeles had the second-biggest fish at 13.90 pounds, winning $2,000. It was caught in Marine Area 6 and weighed at the Gardiner launch ramp. Chris Gregerson of Poulsbo finished third with a 13.65-pound catch from Marine Area 9 weighed at Port Townsend. He won $1,000.
Kathy Watrous, president of the Gardiner Salmon Derby Association, said it was another successful derby with weather being a little chilly, but otherwise good.
The derby’s move from Presidents Day weekend to early March has been a good move with weather being more cooperative, particularly true this year with a brutal February on the Olympic Peninsula.
The derby sold 762 tickets, down from last year’s 857, but up from 2017’s 735 tickets. Also, five more fish were caught this year — 237 — than last year despite fewer tickets.
The prize ladder value was $20,241, including four $500 mystery fish prizes. Mystery fish prize winners were Ken Blankenship, Poulsbo; Jordon Bond, Sequim; Jared Gates, Ferndale; and Andrew Sauvage, Seattle.
The total weight of the fish caught was 1,883 pounds, with the average size of fish caught at 7.95 pounds.
The Gardiner Salmon Derby Association sponsors the event, with proceeds going to community support, emergency services, and high school scholarships. The derby started in 1973 and is run by volunteers from Gardiner and surrounding areas.
The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby is a part of the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series, and all ticket holders are now eligible to win the grand prize boat valued at $75,000, which will be awarded in September.
The top 10 fish caught include:
Mark Thompson, Clinton, first, 19.35 pounds; Don Hansen, Port Angeles, second, 13.90 pounds; Chris Gregerson, Poulsbo, third, 13.65 pounds; Mike Barksdale, Clallam Bay, fourth, 13.30 pounds; Jeremy Golden, Snohomish, fifth, 12.90 pounds; Dave Barbieri, Everett, sixth, 12.20 pounds; Ken Blankenship, Poulsbo, seventh, 11.55 pounds; Kip Houghtaling, Orting, eighth, 11.55 pounds; Kyle Madison, Port Angeles, ninth, 11.50 pounds; David Mosier, Port Townsend, 10th, 11.50 pounds.