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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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93-year-old woman crowned winner in Alaska fishing derby

SALMON FISHING -- Lenore Groundwater, 93, who lives in a retirement home in Green Valley, Ariz., recently reeled in a 16.58-pound silver salmon — her son netted the fish, but all involved say Lenore hooked it and reeled it in — to win the one-day derby in Valdez, Alaska.

She topped a field of 789 to win $1,000 plus a bunch of prizes, including the silver tiara annually awarded to the winner of the popular just-for-women derby, now in its seventh year.

Check out the video as Groundwater drew laughs, cheers and applause at the awards ceremony when she was crowned queen of the derby Saturday night at the Valdez Civic Center.

Asked if she was enjoying the attention, she replied, “Well, it’s probably not helping my high blood pressure.”

Asked which is more important when fishing, luck or skill, she answered without a moment’s hesitation. “Luck,” she said, bringing down the house, and then adding, “And that’s the same thing about living so old.”

Read on for more of a great fishing story from the AP.

Groundwater has plenty of experience fishing in Port Valdez. Her son, Lance Groundwater, has been an Alaskan since 1975 and works for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. in Valdez, and Lenore’s summertime visits almost always include a couple of fishing trips aboard Lance’s boat Walrus.

Things went well from the get-go for Lenore.

“I got the first fish,” she said, “so I won a dollar.”

It was a 10-pounder, but bigger things were still to come. Lenore said she was sitting down and Lance was at the back of the boat when the winner took her lure baited with herring and a green-painted flasher.

“He made one tiny dash away from the boat just before Lance netted him,” she said. “I’ve had ’em where they fight longer or jump higher.”

Her arms didn’t even hurt from reeling in the big fish, though Lenore said there’s a reason for that.

“See, I have a hard time getting up, so my muscles in my arms are quite strong,” she said. “If you get into a low chair at this age, you need power to get up.”

And the tiara? She's been turning heads and getting applause for wearing it in Alaska.

“I live in a retirement home and I think the first time I go down to dinner, I’m going to wear my fishing vest and my tiara," she said. "Give ’em the full treatment.”

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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