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

Widows and Warriors derby is a good time on the river


September 6, 2018

Diana Zimmerman

Jeff Mason, right, who emcee'd the Widows and Warriors Salmon Derby awards ceremony, asked local first responder Laura Borak to step up on a bench so everyone could admire her. She caught the biggest fish of the day, at 27 pounds.

If the smiles and laughter on Thursday afternoon were anything to go by, the fourth annual Wahkiakum Warriors and Widows Salmon Derby was a great time for both participants and volunteers.

All the laughter would surely have delighted the event founder Bud Mickelsen, who died earlier this year.

Participants signed up for the event through Got Your 6 Fishing, an organization founded by Ryan Caldwell, of Olympia, who has been involved in the Wahkiakum event for years.

In order to qualify, service men and women had to have been in combat, and served after 9/11. Gold Star families were also welcome.

Thirty-one showed up this year, according to Caldwell. They came from Washington, Oregon, and as far as Louisiana.

"This is an outstanding event," Caldwell said. "The volunteers do an excellent job, this community really cares."

Karsyn Walshe, who will be starting fourth grade this fall, and her mother Kirsten, were the only Gold Star family to take advantage of the fun event this year. The Walshe's lost their husband and father nine years ago, while he was serving in Afghanistan. The two live in Graham, WA, and Kirsten is finishing her degree in biology.

Karsyn caught a 15.5 pound salmon while on board Doug and Jill Martin's boat.

Daniel O'Reilly, of Creswell, Ore. and Sam Smith, of Monmouth, Ore. served together in the Marines. O'Reilly is a general contractor, and Smith currently works at J.C. Penney while he waits to find out if he will join the Portland Police Department.

They caught a fish while spending the day on Jerry Bain's boat.

"It was well below 30 pounds," the two laughed.

"It was 9.9 pounds," one finally confessed.

"9.4 pounds," the other corrected. "See how quickly fish get bigger?"

The two have done a lot of fishing, but it was their first time to do any salmon fishing on the Columbia.

Jeff Mason, who runs Fish'n Trips for Heroes, and has been involved in the Wahkiakum event since the beginning, no longer recruits participants, but he attended this week anyway.

Diana Zimmerman

Sam Smith of Monmouth, Ore., grins as he shows off his "huge" 9.4 lb salmon.

"I'm here for Bud Mickelsen," Mason said. "They broke the mold after Bud was born. I'll be here, for him, every year."

It was a thought that local volunteer, Nancy McCoy, echoed.

"I'm here because of Bud," McCoy said. She leads the food crew each year, making sure that participants and volunteers get fed, including a salmon dinner, breakfast, a bag lunch, and pizza.

Brad Derting, who served in the Army, won a prize for his 13.8 pound fish. Karsyn Walshe won her division with a 15.5 pound salmon, but the biggest fish caught on Thursday belonged to local first responder, Laura Borak, who hauled in a 27 pound salmon.

One fellow caught a bigger fish, estimated to be nearly twice the size of Borak's. Unfortunately, he had to throw it back.

It was a sturgeon.


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