Church takes advantage of large salmon run with a benefit derby

The Vashon Presbyterian Church will host a benefit for the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness this weekend by taking advantage of a historic run of pink salmon in Puget Sound and sponsoring a fishing derby.

Pinks are an easy fish to catch, even from shore, according to Dan Houston, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church, and he hopes to see a lot of Islanders take part, including youth. Substantial cash prizes, based on the number of participants, will be awarded, with a potential first place prize of $3,000 and special prizes for kids.

“We’re hoping to see a lot of kids, and if we can raise some money and get some experience for the next time, it will be considered a success,” he said. 

The fish off Vashon’s shores are headed for the Puyallup River, Houston noted, and are active in the water, making them especially fun for kids to catch. They often congregate near Vashon across from Tacoma’s Commencement Bay.

“They’re not feeding, but running around like hooligans, celebrating their last weeks of life,” he said, noting they tend to strike out of aggression or curiosity, not hunger.

While he has been out this year and not caught anything, he has also had a lot of success. One night recently he was out and caught four fish in 40 minutes — remarkable for fish whose numbers were decimated earlier this century. 

“The recovery of this fish is amazing,” he said. “It’s like wheels of camembert cheese are floating around out in the water.” 

While some say pinks are not as flavorful as other salmon varieties, Houston said it is all in their preparttion. “I can turn a humpy into a coho just by treating it really well,” he said.

On a more serious note, Houston spoke about the need for supporting the interfaith council’s work. The group, which offers assistance ranging from free dinners  to assistance with rent, is the front line for emergency response to Vashon families in need. The majority of those the nonprofit group serves are working people on Vashon, Houston noted, and the council helps in part because governmental support agencies are simply not here.

“As a pastor, I see people every month who have been helped by the council’s work,” he said. “We have a tremendous number of Islanders who are scraping by.”

Emma Amiad, the interfaith council’s president, said the group will put the money to good use. 

“The situations keep coming,” she said. 

The group has seen a lot of families in the past year in which someone has lost a job and the family is facing the loss of some or all of its income, she said. Medical needs have also become more prevalent and are draining families’ coffers. 

The council now spends about $45,000 a year to assist Islanders, and sometimes the bank balance sinks quite low. 

“We get down to $2,000 several times a year,” she said. Then, through fundraisers and donations, the money is replenished for a time. 

“We never know what is going to come up next,” she said. 

To help with the group’s mission, Houston said he would like to see as many people as possible take part in the derby, including scout troops. 

Tickets are $50 for ages 17 and older, $20 for kids ages 10 to 16 years and $10 for 2 to 15 years. Buy tickets online at

For more information about the derby, including a list of rules and regulations and information on prizes, see



We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates