MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Court decision in Discovery Bay Salmon Derby conflict

WE MIGHT NEED to consult King Solomon.

The Discovery Bay Salmon Derby, despite the ruling of a Jefferson County Superior Court judge, looks like it will be split in two.

Superior Court judge Craddock Verser gave possession of the derby to the Gardiner Salmon Derby Association in a summary judgement issued this past Friday.

Thus, all of the derby assets — including its intellectual property and nearly $21,000 — now belong to a group of Gardiner volunteers.

Just don’t expect that to resolve what has become a drawn-out dispute in the Gardiner-Discovery Bay area; one responsible for the cancellation of the 2010 derby in February.

Jefferson County Fire District No. 5, which once served the Gardiner community and was a recipient of derby proceeds, is not quite ready to throw in the towel.

“Our lawyers are still working on something,” fire district commissioner Barb Knoepfle said during a phone interview. “It’s an ongoing thing, so it’s still not done yet.”

That “something” would likely be an appeal, the only course of action left for the fire district if it hopes to regain possession of the derby assets.

The district’s lawyers have a little less than 30 days to file an appeal, otherwise the judgement will stand.

Regardless, the North Olympic Peninsula may just see two derbies where there was none in 2010.

That’s because both parties are planning on running an event in 2011.

“We will hold a derby,” Knoepfle said without giving specific dates.

“We’re just trying to get through the legal stuff and we’re going to work on our derby.”

Meanwhile, Gardiner Salmon Derby Association president Dan Tatum said he is taking steps to secure the derby’s traditional Presidents Day weekend slot for 2011.

“The people of Gardiner, we fought real hard for this,” Tatum said. “The people of Gardiner have always run this derby, and now we’ve got it again.”

Tatum said he has already talked with a representative from the Northwest Salmon Derby Series to set up a reservation.

He also spoke of the possibility of an increased payout for the top fish as well as expanded derby boundaries.

He declined to give more details upon the advice of his lawyer.

“I’ll probably get into it a little more [after the appeal process is done],” Tatum said. “I don’t want to throw any more fuel on the fire again.

“We just want this to cool off and get this over with.”

Brief history

The heat of the debate, of course, is over who actually owns the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby.

Originally called the Discovery Bay Fire Department Salmon Derby, the event was first started in 1973 to help raise funds for Fire District No. 5, then headquartered in Gardiner.

Community members from Gardiner and Discovery Bay helped run it until it went dormant from 1999 to 2002 after the state closed winter salmon fishing in the area.

When the state reopened February fishing — called “iron man” fishing by derby organizers — once again in 2003, Tatum and Wayne King helped revive it.

“Dan Tatum started it again,” Trevor Hanson, vice president of the Gardiner derby organizing committee, told the PDN this past December.

“I have heard people say, ‘The derby is really, really easy because Dan Tatum does all the work.'”

Of course, Knoepfle disagrees with that particular point of view, saying that it was the firefighters who really brought the event back.

What is agreed upon is that the two groups worked together closely in the succeeding years.

In 2009, more than 800 tickets were sold and $16,500 in prizes awarded for an event whose footprint stretched from Port Townsend to Sequim.

Problems arose, however, after Gardiner left the district to join Clallam County Fire District No. 3 by petition later that summer.

A disagreement over which group held true ownership of the derby soon arose.

The two sides eventually lawyered up and began planning its own competing salmon derbies in 2011.

It wasn’t until Friday, after a number of failed attempts at compromise, that the issue received any resolution . . . however short-lived it might be.

“It’s been a long, hard battle . . . a lot of time. It’s been hard,” Tatum said.

“We wanted to remain in control of the salmon derby and keep it running as we’ve always run it.

“We didn’t want to cancel it for two years in a row. It would be too hard to start it up again.”

Said Knoepfle, “I’m just hoping everything turns out for both of us, Gardiner and us. I have no hard feelings against them.

“It’s that I just don’t believe [the derby] belongs to them.”


Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at

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