Bill Bixby's decision to go fishing with his brother paid off handsomely, as the Soldotna angler reeled in an 18.46-pound silver salmon and third place in the 2004 Seward Silver Salmon Derby.
"He was fishing alone and kind of crying for me to go with," Bixby said of his brother, Jerry. "I decided to go with."
Bill usually brings his boat to Seward to fish the derby, but this year he wasn't planning on fishing it hard, he said. Had his brother not bugged him into going out, he said it's likely he wouldn't have even bothered this year.
The Bixby brothers who both hail from Soldotna ended up fishing for five days in Resurrection Bay, hauling in between 20 and 30 silvers each day by fishing out in deep water. They caught so many fish, in fact, that the biggest one Bill caught came on a strike he wasn't even paying much attention to.
"It was on a double-header," Bill said.
After netting his brother's fish first, Bill said he turned his attention to his rod, which had popped up from its downrigged position.
"The thing jumped and I said, 'Holy smokes, that's a nice fish,'" he said.
After bringing the large silver to the boat, the Bixbys had to motor 15 miles back into Seward before the fish could be weighed. On board Jerry's boat, Bill said the fish weighed in at 19.2 pounds, but probably dropped a bit of water weight on the run back in.
The fish's official weight was still good enough to rank it third, behind a 19.79-pound fish caught by Renee James of Eagle River and an 18.59 silver landed by Michigan's Corey Gallt. James won $10,000 for first prize, while Gallt took home $5,000.
For his effort, Bill earned $2,500 for third place. However, what's a pretty good honor for most anglers isn't even Bill's best showing in the derby. In fact, he's the only two-time winner and, at one point, held the all-time record for a fish that weighed more than 20 pounds. Jerry's no slouch, either: He's also a former winner.
So although he's happy with this year's silver catch, Bill like all fishers said he wouldn't have minded catching one just a little bigger.
"By golly, I did pretty well," he said. "Of course, I would have liked to have been first."
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