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 Sept. 21 when a friend called from the awards ceremony at the Everett (Wash.) 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 and trailer worth about $65,000.
“I never win anything,” Clark, who lives in Monroe, Wash, said in a statement from the Northwest Marine Trade Association. “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 about $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 because it’s considered the granddaddy of the series, typically drawing upward of 2,000 anglers during its two days.
The Northwest Salmon Derby Series was started in 2004 by the Northwest Marine Trade Association to promote salmon fishing in the region. It had six derbies the first year and has grown to the current 14.
The NMTA 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.”
For Clark, the boat 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 has 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.”