It was an exciting end to the Petersburg’s 35th annual salmon derby Monday evening as the second place fish came in with just minutes to spare. The difference between first and second this year was less than half a pound.

Local resident Mickey Knight was in the lead since he brought in a 37.6-pound king Saturday morning. And he was there watching at the weigh in station at Petersburg’s North Harbor as the time ticked down at the end of the four-day derby.

“You have three minutes!” chamber director Mara Lutomski called out to several boats tying up just before the 5 o’clock deadline Monday. One man, Larry Durst, came running up the dock with a large fish, hooks still in its mouth still bleeding and still moving as he hefted onto the scale. Turns out that 37.2 pound fish was caught by another Petersburg man, Dick Eide and was good enough for second place, falling short of Knight’s derby winner by four tenths of a pound. Eide said he caught the fish near Horn Cliff, just across Frederick Sound from Petersburg.

Mickey Knight, center, and Dick Eide, right, inspect Eide's 37.2 pound second place king Monday night at the derby weigh in station in North Harbor.

Mickey Knight, center, and Dick Eide, right, inspect Eide’s 37.2 pound second place king Monday night at the derby weigh in station in North Harbor.

“And it’s still kicking,” Eide said, adding he caught it less than a half hour before the close of the derby. “We wanted to beat (Knight). No, I picked it up and I didn’t know it’s weight for sure. My scale said 37.4.”

It was an exciting finish for Knight. “Well it’s just the same old story, a weight and a cut plug herring, salmon leader, 4 in the morning, Saturday morning.” Knight said he caught his out at Farragut Bay where he always fishes during the derby. “But it’s kinda funny my son wanted to bring a bathroom scale,” Knight said. “I always like cleaning ‘em if they’re not big enough. And I always figure you gotta have a 45 or 50 pounder. We thought it was bigger really.”

Photo courtesy of Becky Knight

Photo courtesy of Becky Knight

It’s a good thing Knight did not clean the fish before bringing it in. It could have been the difference between first and second.

It’s the first time since 1994 that the winning fish was under 40 pounds. Knight says he’s been fishing the derby for 31 years and it’s his first win. He said he headed back out after catching that fish Saturday. “In fact I lost a nice one last night,” he said. “I was by myself, I tried to dip it. I wish I would’ve used a gaff hook. It wasn’t as big as this one. But it was a nice fish. But the hook got caught in the net and the fish swam away. Bummed me out.”

The one he did land is good for first prize and a seven thousand dollar cash prize. Second prize is 35-hundred dollars and third gets 25-hundred. Third place goes to Cody Wegener, with a 35.9 pounder weighed in Sunday afternoon.

The derby total was 256 fish, down from 345 last year and 325 the year before. Successful anglers get to choose from a long list of gift certificates and other merchandise donated by local businesses at a prize ceremony on Thursday night.

That prize ceremony is at the ANB/ANS Hall at 7 p.m. this Thursday.