$10K top prize for Gardiner salmon derby

The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby is the new name for the traditional Presidents Day weekend event, with wider boundaries and a first prize of $10,000.

The Feb. 19-21, 2011, derby covers more than 100 miles of Olympic Peninsula shoreline, 500 square miles of fishing, from west of Freshwater Bay, through Port Angeles, Sequim, Gardiner, Port Townsend, Port Hadlock and Port Ludlow.

Volunteers and new members are welcome at a derby committee meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5, at the Gardiner Community Center.

Organizers have set a fundraising dinner and auction for 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6. Donations of items for auction, as well as cash, are sought to jump-start the 2011 derby, according to Dan Tatum. If you can help, contact Tatum at 360-797-7710 or send contributions to Gardiner Salmon Derby Association, P.O. Box 357, Sequim, WA 98382.

This is the latest incarnation of the fishing derby that volunteers from Gardiner in Jefferson County started in 1972 to raise money for their fire department. A state change in fishing seasons ended the derby in 1999 but it resurfaced in 2003 and became better than ever thanks to refreshed volunteer leadership.

From 2006-2009 the derby (which is for hatchery fish, not wild salmon) association donated $50,000 to Jefferson Fire District 5 (Gardiner/Discovery Bay) for equipment and to pay for training and other expenses.

In 2009, residents of the Gardiner area successfully petitioned, under state law, to have their area withdrawn from District 5 and incorporated into adjacent Clallam County Fire Protection District 3.

The fishing derby organizers talked about how the Gardiner-based derby no longer was obligated to give all the proceeds to one fire district and could, instead, spread it around.

But the derby for 2010 was cancelled after a legal dispute emerged when District 5 commissioners seized the salmon derby volunteers' bank account, derby equipment and derby name.

In July 2010, the Gardiner Salmon Derby Association won summary judgment in Jefferson County Superior Court.

That ruling was enough to convince Tatum and other key organizers to get going on plans for 2011.

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