Record silver salmon wins Seward derby

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- No one could beat Shirley Baysinger's catch after all.

The 22.24-pound fish caught last week is the largest of the 47-year history of the Seward Silver Salmon Derby, which ended Sunday.

Before Baysinger became the official winner, rumors spread that an ever bigger fish was caught.

''It was getting hilarious,'' said Helen Marrs, executive director of the Seward Chamber of Commerce. ''You'd go to the grocery store and people would stop you and say a new record had been set with a 24-pounder.

''People would actually run to the derby booth and say, 'We saw a tagged fish in the lagoon!' '' she told the Anchorage Daily News. ''Since there's no fishing in the lagoon, we'd say, 'Shoo it back out!' ''

But the rumors were false, and the 10 tagged fish -- including one that would have paid $100,000 -- remained elusive.

Baysinger's silver salmon was caught Wednesday, earning the Cooper Landing resident $10,000 for first place. She won another $10,000 for besting the previous record holder, a 20.59-pound fish taken in 1994.

''I'm numb,'' Baysinger said Sunday just before the award ceremony at the Resurrection Roadhouse. ''I can't believe it.''

Baysinger and her husband, Ken, have been fishing the derby for more than 30 years. She caught a tagged fish worth $5,000 in 1979 and the third-largest fish in 1990. She knew her apparent win could slip away with any cast.

''You never know,'' she said. ''Until the end of the derby, anybody could have gotten a bigger fish.''

Albert Verrall of Palmer held on to second place with a 21.31-pound fish that would have won every previous derby.

Rounding out the top five standings, unchanged since Wednesday, are third-place Neil Hermon, Palmer, 19.56; fourth-place Tom Gotcher, Soldotna, 18.94; fifth-place Brian Todd, Anchorage, 17.95.

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