Another successful Seward Silver Salmon Derby reached its conclusion today, with an eleventh hour entry stealing the $10,000 prize for heaviest fish. Juneau’s Ben Cheeseman claimed his victory this morning with a 14.03 pound silver that narrowly defeated Seward’s Lynn Hohl and the 13.94 pounder that had held the top spot since Wednesday. Cheeseman hauled in the winning whopper while fishing near the SeaLife Center from the deck of the Kingfisher 3025 he shares with his father. His prize catch, Cheeseman said, was not among the scrappiest silvers he’d encountered at this year’s derby.
“Honestly, I don’t even think the fish thought he was hooked,” he said. “It was kind of a surprise to all of us when we got it in the net because we were really surprised how big it was. We had some ten-pounders that fought really hard, but that one didn’t fight nearly as bad as some of the others.”
Before being dethroned by Cheeseman’s catch, Lynn Hohl’s 13.94 pound haul had managed to fend off challenger after challenger, with fish weighing in just shy of her silver every day of the derby. Cheeseman’s victory came with a 9:47 a.m. weigh-in that snatched victory from Hohl only a few hours before the close of the event. Hohl emerged with not only the $5,000 second place prize, but also the heaviest fish among women anglers. Rounding out the top five overall were Anchorage’s Krissell Crandall with a 13.88 pound $2,500 third place catch, Post Falls’ Tanner Mort and a 13.77 pounder in fourth, and Wasilla’s Dillon Schoenberg bringing in a 13.17 for fifth place.
Also notable among Seward winners was Randy Knopik for Top Cumulative Weight, hauling in a hefty 426.02 total pounds of salmon over the course of the derby. The top junior fish was an 11.97 pounder taken by Palmer’s Jenna Ekelmann, and Post Falls’ Tanner Mort won both the $5 and $10 side bet pools, while Ouzinkie’s Willis Garner took home the pot for the $25 pool, and Eagle River’s Eric Huberty claimed victory in the $50 pool.
As to the fate of the winning fish and its $10,000 prize, Cheeseman bought back his winning silver and relinquished it to Captain Jack’s for processing. The money, he said, would be split among those on the boat.
“Since it’s a team effort on our boat, friends and family,” he said, “we’re going to split it four ways because everyone had a part in catching the fish.”
His own share of the winnings, Cheeseman said, will be wisely invested in a cunning attempt at bribery.
“Probably going to give it to my wife to convince her that I should have to go and do the derby next year,” he said.
For a complete list of all winners, visit hbt.seward.com/tournament.php?id=33.