The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Widows and Warriors derby creates a lot of joy


September 7, 2017

Photo courtesy of Ruth Kimmel

Widows and Warriors Salmon Derby 2017: Bernie Villalobos returns with his haul, alongside new friends Steve Simpson and Wayne Madden.

The water was rough on a warm and windy Wednesday and didn't make for good fishing, but the participants in the third annual Warriors and Widows Salmon Derby were still smiling that evening at the dinner and awards ceremony.

They'd only caught 11 fish that day, if you didn't count all the sturgeon that went right back in the water. Bernie Villalobos caught three of the salmon all by himself.

A couple boats cruised as far downriver as Tongue Point, but most of the boats stayed a little closer to home, from Flandersville to Vista Park.

Ryne Lee Danley, of Memphis, Tennessee, caught a sturgeon the first day and had to let it go. But not before his hosts, Cindy and Bill Faubion, snapped a picture.

Kimberly Johnson, who was with him, said everyone nearby came to attention when Danley reeled in the fish, and an almost audible sigh came over all, as they realized they weren't looking at a salmon.

Luckily, Danley caught his salmon the next day.

There was a sea of red tee shirts under the shelter at the Elochoman Slough Marina as volunteers, warriors, Gold Star Families, kids, and local law enforcement enjoyed dinner together that evening.

They were becoming friends, and in some cases, more like family.

Gold Star Widow Catherine Trujillo Adrianson was back with her son, Brian Trujillo, for the third year. He got his first taste of fishing in the Columbia at this event, and at 14, is quite taken with the sport. He's now fished off Westport and LaPush and gone trout fishing at Mineral Lake. Every year, they go out with Brett and Sharon Deaton, in their boat.

"It's hard not to come back when it's such a wonderful event and community," Trujillo-Adrianson said.

Diana Zimmerman

Mike Rowe, left, Captain Jim Omega, and derby winner Steve Cracraft pose for a picture after picking up their prizes. Cracraft, who is from Michigan, caught the biggest fish on derby day at 18.25 pounds. Omega, as his captain, also took home a rod, but decided to give it to Rowe.

Captain Bruce Peterson said that friendship came easy over talk of fishing on the river. There were new people to meet, but he happily admitted that he still spoke regularly with the ones he had shared a boat with in the past two years.

After dinner, Brandee Green, on active duty and from the Tri-Cities, was quietly watching people with her friend, Rick Wills, a diver from Boston, while they waited for the awards ceremony and raffle.

"It beats going to work," he laughed.

The next day proved to be better. Participants caught 22 more fish, for a total of 412.2 pounds for the event.

The Warriors and Widows Salmon Derby was started by Puget Island resident Bud Mickelson in 2015 after he heard a presentation by Jeff Mason of Puyallup about taking Wounded Warriors out for some fishing.

The event is organized by a large group of local volunteers, who captain boats, make and serve meals, and more.


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