Smelt Derby extinct after 54-year run


February 5, 2020

THOSE WERE THE DAYS – At the height of the Smelt Derby, Pull and Be Damned residents organized and others enjoyed a non-sanctioned Smelt Derby party. Beauties included 1994 Smelt Queen John Kaguras (right), Beth Hailey (on John’s right) and “Miss Directed” Cathy Schoenberg. Some wish those days had never ended. – Photo courtesy of Cathy Schoenberg

In spite of tremendous support by members, the Rotary Club of La Conner is retiring the annual Smelt Derby.

For the handful of smelt in the Channel, the Derby’s demise is good news. Not so for the humans who gathered each February to fish and frolic during the beloved late-winter community event.

Longtime Derby committee member and judge Patsy Good has been doling out prizes for the largest smelt, the smallest smelt and the strangest catch since 1996. For the last several years, Smelt Derby fans “have sat on the docks and not caught anything, and that’s discouraging,” she said. “L...

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