Golden North Salmon Derby
In the early days of the Golden North Salmon Derby, a canon shot signaled a mass start, with boats racing from Auke Bay to their favorite fishing holes. Sometime in the 1980s, safety concerns put an end to this mad dash, but the derby continues to be characterized by a competitive spirit. Anglers compete for bragging rights, of course, but they also compete for cash and prizes. The first-place prize for the first derby, organized by the Territorial Sportsmen in 1947, was a 1947 Plymouth DeLuxe automobile. The winner, with a 38-pound salmon, was Dick Harris, grandson of Juneau’s founding father, Richard Harris.
Gil Eide was a member of the World War II era Alaska Territorial Guard, which evolved into the Territorial Sportsmen, a group dedicated to promoting Alaska’s fishing, hunting, and skiing. Gil said, “There was a crowd of us in the guard that drilled together, shot together, and were generally interested in doing some public good.” Early Sportsmen’s projects, designed to boost fish and game populations, required funding, and someone came up with the idea to transform local informal fishing competitions into an organized event.
At that first salmon derby, Gil Eide’s main assignment was to make sure fishermen didn’t try to turn in fish after the deadline. Later on, Gil became the official photographer of derby events, as he was for many Sportsmen’s activities through the years. Other people also snapped photographs, and the Sportsmen even purchased two cameras for use by officials stationed on the floats. In the Gil Eide Photograph Collection, there are over 800 photographs of the salmon derby, covering the years 1965 through 1973. The images in this exhibit display a small sample of the larger collection, which numbers 1724 images, including many photographs of Juneau High School activities.
From 1943 until his retirement in 1972, Gil Eide taught high school biology, chemistry, and physics. In 1969, he was named Conservation Educator of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation. Gil Eide and his wife moved to Washington State in 2000, and he died in 2002, leaving behind a photographic record of his life in Juneau. The event he documented so well, the Golden North Salmon Derby, continues to this day.
NOTE: Many of the individuals in the exhibit photographs are unidentified. If you recognize yourself or others, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 465-2925. Also, if you have a good fish story to tell, we would love to hear it.