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WINCHESTER BAY — Dozens of fishermen Saturday competed in this year’s Salmon Derby with boats set throughout the lower Umpqua River in search of this year’s biggest catch.

Fsherman bring their boats out of the water Saturday during the STEP Salmon Derby in Winchester Bay.

The three-day event celebrated its 25th year in Douglas County with a new selection of raffle prizes and contestants eager to claim the top cash prize.

Winners were announced Saturday, Sunday and Monday for submitting the day’s heaviest salmon and was awarded $150. The contestant with the heaviest overall salmon was given $500 and the smallest “legal” salmon was awarded $100. The derby also included ticket drawings with an opportunity to win an additional $100.

The annual derby not only promotes local fishing but also acts as a fundraiser for the Gardiner-Reedsport-Winchester Bay Salmon, Trout Enhancement Program (STEP), which works on breeding and raising Chinook salmon and rainbow trout in the Umpqua River through its hatchery.

Dan, left, and Don Maben joke as they clean salmon caught Saturday during the STEP Salmon Derby in Winchester Bay. The father and son team cam…

As part of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, STEP was created in 1981 to bring volunteers throughout the state to join in its efforts to help create a stable and active native salmon and trout population.

Deborah Yates, the president of the Gardiner-Reedsport-Winchester Bay STEP, said despite some water quality and flow challenges the group was still able to release about 600 Chinook salmon into the Umpqua River this June.

“We sent about 75,000 of our fertilized (salmon) eggs up to the Rock Creek Hatchery near Roseburg,” said Yates. “They are bringing them back in a couple of weeks so then we’ll release those too. First, we’ll put them in holding pens in Winchester Bay for 21 days so that they can get acclimated to that site.”

Birds fight over salmon guts Saturday near a fishing cleaning station during the STEP Salmon Derby in Winchester Bay.

For this year’s derby, the group had about 15 volunteers assist with recording and weighing all the submitted entries. In addition to cash prizes, the event offered a range of raffle prizes including a fishing kayak package, guided fishing trips and over $1,000 in Sportsman’s Warehouse’s fishing gear and gift certificates.

Awards are scheduled to be handed out today at the Marina Activity Center at 1:30 p.m. in Winchester Bay. The derby was co-hosted by Sportsman’s Warehouse and the Gardiner-Reedsport-Winchester Bay STEP group.

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