Seward Appreciates Alaska's Troops with the Biggest Catch

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by Whitney LB Miller

ANCHORAGE - It's the first big fishing weekend of the year and some local service men and women got an early shot out in Seward Thursday.

Once a year the welcome mat is rolled out for troops from all branches of the military on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson for the nations largest military appreciation fishing tournament.

"Lots of people like to go fishing lots of guys in the military have not been this type of fishing.. We get to show the better parts of Alaska beyond the base gates," said founder Keith Manternach.

Keith Manternach joined up with the armed services YMCA and the city of Seward to take junior enlisted troops who have been or will be deploying over seas on a deep sea fishing trip. Thursday 20 charter vessels took at least 200 soldiers out to sea with one goal in mind.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Estrada got to Alaska in October and says although he's never been halibut fishing this isn't his first deep sea adventure.

"I've been deep sea fishing only once in Texas, didn't really catch anything,"said Estrada.

Thursday he got the chance to drop his line more than 200 feet deep into the ocean in hopes of reeling in some of the finest Catch Alaska has to offer.

"It's nice just to get out with the guys and have a nice fishing trip and it's fun to come camping with my friends," he said.

Unlike many tournaments - size was not the only quest. This year it was all about the mystery weight. Any size fish could take home a number of cash prizes.

"we don't want guys feeling like they have to spend the whole day out there tying to catch a big fish," said Manternach.

After a long day at sea all the work is done for these men and women as the deck hands begin filleting their catch - then the real story begins. A feast is set and prizes, cash, and trophies are ready to be presented.

"It's awesome they are volunteering their time down here, said Estrada. "we have to make sure we thank them afterwards you know."

Manternach says "It's a long day and i think its a surprise that the community of Seward is so into taking care of the military."

Keith says amidst all the challenges the day can and will bring, somehow with the help of the Seward community the tournament goes off without a hitch.

"They all get involved just to make sure these guys know just how special they are,"said Manternach.