Junior fishing derby draws more kids than fish

Attendance rises thanks to better advertising, fewer bears

From front: Madi and Kadee Goss fish near the Michael Dean Banta Bridge during the Ed Zeine Kids Fishing Derby. (Sept. 7, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
From front: Madi and Kadee Goss fish near the Michael Dean Banta Bridge during the Ed Zeine Kids Fishing Derby. (Sept. 7, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Following a rash of bear sightings, the 2018 Kids Fishing Derby drew only 15 participants. This year’s derby, with better advertising and fewer bears, registered an unprecedented 64 kids, organizers said.

Seven fish were weighed in during the Saturday, Sept. 7 event. Although fishers found more insects than fish biting at Cordova’s streams, young participants seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, organizer Vivian Knop said.

“I think it was successful and unsuccessful at the same time,” Knop said. “It was wildly successful in that we had 64 kids, but, unfortunately, there weren’t a bunch of fish.”

Jackson Goss, 6, said that he hoped to catch a salmon in the stream running underneath the Michael Dean Banta Bridge, but that he wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t catch one. Mim Hodges, who fished nearby with her grandson Myron, jokingly suggested that prizes should be given for the biggest bug bites.

Rechristened in memorial of its co-founder, the 2019 Ed Zeine Kids Fishing Derby was sponsored by Cordova Community Medical Center, the Cordova Moose Lodge, the Mt. McKinley Masonic Lodge, the Cordova chapter of the Pioneers of Alaska, and the Powder House bar and grill. The Alaska State Troopers also partnered with derby organizers, distributing rulers and tape measures.

Elaine Zeine, surviving wife of Ed Zeine, said that the derby gives professional fishermen an opportunity to introduce their families to their work.

“The fishermen don’t usually get to go out and fish with their kids,” Elaine Zeine said. “This is an event that they can enjoy with their children, teaching them how to fish. I hope the derby can continue to be a source of family enjoyment.”

She recalls one derby in the 1990s during which a 6-year-old participant brought in a surprisingly large fish. Later that night, the child called her and confessed the truth: the prize-winning fish had been caught not by him, but by his father.

“He brought the prize back,” Elaine Zeine said. “It was really heartening.”

Knop intends to return as head organizer of the Ed Zeine Kids Fishing Derby in 2020.

“I’m looking forward to next year and hoping that the fishing will be better,” Knop said. “The only thing that would have made it 100 percent would have been more fish.”