Passing of the torch: Puget Sound Anglers assume leadership of Einar Nielsen/Becky Barr Fishing Derby; Larry Anderson wins this year’s event

The Einar Nielsen/Becky Barr Fishing Derby Committee. From left

It’s a 25-year tradition that hasn’t stopped gaining support and momentum: The Einar Nielsen-Becky Barr Fishing Derby, hosted each September by Roche Harbor and hundreds of volunteers, with thousands of dollars worth of donated prizes.

“This isn’t just a fishing derby — it’s an ongoing culture of fun and special people coming together to help out Friday Harbor High School kids to get to the next educational level,” said Tim Judkins, for 25 years the chairman of the derby/fund-raiser.

“The Nielsens and my family grew up at Sunset Point; they were our only neighbors back then,” Judkins said.

“Einar was a trapper of mink and beaver, but his real passion was fishing. He owned a construction company and was a county commissioner. He bought a mustard-color Bayliner and was always seen at Open Bay. He named the boat ‘ESP,’ which stood for Einar Shirley Properties, and he never landed the big ones but lots of small ones.

“One day, Ken Waters, who lived on Yacht Haven, looked out to see that there was no movement on the boat and jumped in his skiff to check it out. There, sitting up against the bulkhead with the pole still in his hand, along with a live 54-pound salmon on the line, was Einar. The fight of landing this massive fish apparently causing (him) a heart attack, but he got it all the way in the boat.”

To commemorate “this fight of man and fish,” as Judkins puts it, the Nielsen/Barr derby was founded to fund a college scholarship for local graduating high school students.

“I have been the chairman for 25 years and am now handing it off to the local chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers,” Judkins said.

“There cannot be enough thanks given out over these 25 years to all the volunteer cooks, bottle washers, prize donors and fishermen. But without the total dedication of the staff and management of Roche Harbor, and the donation of the dinner fish by Trident Sea Foods, it could never work.”

Larry Anderson’s 24.11-pound king took the top prize in this year’s derby, which began Thursday and concluded Sunday.

Anderson, who won the derby six years ago with a 32-pound king, caught his latest winner off Eagle Point at 1 p.m. the opening day of the derby. He wasn’t confident of victory.

“I figured, 24 pounds — somebody would beat it,” he said. He fished Friday and Saturday, catching a lot of “real nice silvers” that had to be thrown back because they weren’t clipped.

He was pleased by the number of entries in the derby — about 86, up from 12-15 the last couple of years.

As the winner, Anderson received a Shimano pole and reel valued at $620; the prize was donated by King’s Marine.

The next derby is the Roche Harbor Hook’em & Hold’em Derby, Dec. 3-5; to enter, call Debbie Sandwith, 378-5562. The Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Invitational is Feb. 4-6, with a first prize of $10,000. Spots fill quickly; call Sandwith at 378-5562.