Halibut Derby readies for promising 2012 summer season
Steven Adams of Valdez is on the top of the Valdez Halibut Derby leaderboard after landing a 136.1 pound halibut last Wednesday aboard the Dan Orion.
The first week of the Valdez Halibut Derby ended Saturday night after a disappointing opening Saturday, May 19, that featured 12 foot seas in the Gulf of Alaska, forcing charter boats to cancel fishing trips. Despite the iffy May weather that has flummoxed the Valdez Fly-In and made for wet outdoor activities, Alaskans have not only been out fishing, but are reeling in 100 plus pound halibut, creating a very competitive first week of the derby.
Benjamin Davis of Fairbanks is currently in second place in the halibut derby with a 127.1 pound fish and Nick Yepko of North Pole is currently in third place overall with the 109.9 pound flatfish he caught on Friday.
The fish Adams, Davis and Yepko are leading with are not likely to hold on to win the $15,000 first place prize in the derby, but they are big enough to take home the first and second place prizes for the first week of the derby.
Last year, Annette Gutierrez of Fairbanks was the big winner in the Halibut Derby, taking home the $15,000 grand prize check for the halibut that weighed in at 335.7 pounds.
Thomas Broach of North Pole took second place with a 236.9 pounder. Broach was awarded a $5,000 check and James Pohlman of Fairbanks took third place and $2,000 with a 214.8 pound flatfish.
While the hundred pounders always create a buzz, several smaller fish were brought to the weigh in station this week according to weigh-in volunteer Nancy Meadors. Smaller “chicken” halibut do count - as long as you a have derby ticket.
Jeffrey Waldhalm of Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota, says he has been coming to Valdez for the last seven years straight and has caught a halibut every time. On Memorial Day, Waldhalm caught a 44.5 pound halibut aboard a private boat. While his halibut doesn’t make the overall leader board, on Tuesday his fish was the leader for the second week of the derby, which ends this Saturday night.
The halibut derby runs through the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend and the limit for Valdez sportfishers is still two per day.
Meadors said there were eight people who asked for a fish to be weighed, all under 91 pounds - and all without a derby ticket.
The volunteers at the station say that every time they weigh in a fish for someone without a derby ticket they know that they could just as easily have been weighing in a 300 pound catch worth $15,000. Every year, at least one angler comes into Port Valdez with a 200 or even 300-plus pound halibut and lose out on thousands of dollars of prize money because they didn’t shell out $10 for a derby ticket.
A derby ticket for both the halibut and silver salmon derbies also enters fishers into a drawing to win a 2012 F-150 4x4 pickup truck from Seekins Ford.
Other fisheries and contests
While halibut catches have been a bit spotty, fishing for rockfish has been tremendous according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The Dept. said that a few anglers reported catching limits near Knowles Head and Naked Island.
“The ocean entrances continue to be great places to catch halibut,” ADF&G said. “Rockfish angling is quite productive with small jigs near rocky reefs. Shrimp catches in Prince William Sound have been quite nice.”
According to Dave Cobb of the Valdez Fisheries Development Association, king salmon are in Prince William Sound and the fish that were released by the hatchery should be coming back to the Port of Valdez.
As in past years, Lingcod season is closed until July 1, to protect nest-guarding males.
The Halibut Hullaballoo – a special contest within the Halibut Derby – is set for the week of June15 through 24. This year the angler catching the largest halibut during that time period will win $1,000 cash in addition to the weekly prizes and any overall prizes they might qualify for.
There is also the Kids Pink Salmon Derby. It has been set for July 14 and the event has gotten bigger each year.
The Silver Salmon Derby in Valdez will again boast a $15,000 first place prize and daily prizes and begins July 21 and ends on the same date as the Halibut Derby, September 2.
The Annual Valdez Women’s Derby is slated for Saturday, August 11 this year and features an opening ceremony Friday, August 10.
Derby volunteer Bonnie Woods said the derby shack on Chitina Dr. is in place down by the harbor and is open to weigh in fish everyday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. through July 20. Starting July 21, the weigh-in shack will open at noon.
Derby tickets are available at Capt’n Joe’s, Prospector, Eagles Rest RV Park, South Central Hardware, Fish Central, the Valdez Fish Derby weigh-in station and at preferred charter boats.