La Conner’s Smelt Derby draws hopeful anglers

February 25, 2019
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Two-year-old Athena Ngiralmau fishes for smelt Saturday with her mother, Savanna Orcutt. The Sedro-Woolley family was trying its luck at the La Conner Smelt Derby.

Anglers at the La Conner Rotary Club’s 54th Smelt Derby Family Festival were hopeful. Catching a smelt or two would make their day.

Though the fish were scarce, at least through Saturday morning, that has not always been the case.

Adrianne Franklin of Sedro-Woolley has come to the derby off and on with her family since the early 1980s.

Then, it wasn’t uncommon to haul in three or more fish at a time on a line loaded with small hooks.

“We all had our own buckets — big buckets,” she said.

Back then, a hatchery fish food plant on the south end of town meant there would be plenty of smelt in the Swinomish Channel.

Travis McGlenn, a 29-year-old graduate of La Conner High School, remembers fishing during the derby with his family.

He said his most vivid memory is of the time everyone but him was catching fish.

On Saturday, a line full of jigs he prepared was ready to go as he decided to try his luck for the first time in years.

By 10:30 a.m., one smelt had been turned in at the judges table on South First Street.

Awards for the largest smelt, the smallest smelt and strangest catch were some of the categories to be judged.

Other events, including the 5K and 10K Smelt Run, a pancake breakfast and family treasure hunt offered those attending plenty to do.