Even kids are angling for that big catch in Valdez
With bluebird skies and record high temperatures, the Valdez Fish Derbies weigh-in shack was busy with fish on the scales and anglers happy to hang out in the sunshine after returning to port. Several fish were weighed in near the 100 pound mark, including a 170 pounder that would have taken the lead in the derby - if the angler had a derby ticket. The winner of the first place weekly prize was Joe Westbrook of La Rue, Texas. Westbrook reeled in a 138.6 pound flatfish June 16 from aboard the “Chinook.” The second place weekly prize went to Ken Born of North Pole, who caught a 134.8 pounder June 21 from aboard the “Aleashia.”
In addition to netting the weekly prizes, it was Westbrook’s 138.6 pounder that won $1,000 cash in the ten-day Halibut Hullabaloo tournament. It also put him firmly in second place on the overall leader board. Laurie Deakin of Arizona is still leading the derby with her 158 pounder, and third place is currently held by Ken Born with a 134.8 pound flatfish.
Even children are getting in on the halibut action; nine-year-old Emma Koldeway of Anchorage brought up a flatfish estimated at between 105 and 115 pounds. When asked about her reaction to catching the largest fish on her boat, she replied, “I was pretty excited and I couldn’t believe how big it was and I didn’t think that I could pull it up…but I did!”
She also said the halibut was shot before it could be hauled in.
In addition to great fishing, the sunshine and calm seas seemed to be the perfect recipe for wildlife viewing in and around Valdez; many anglers reported seeing multiple whales and other wildlife. Tour boats on the sound have reported seeing orcas and humpbacks nearly every day, and on one day last week, even a fin whale was sighted. Fin whales are second only to blue whales in size and don’t often make the foray into Prince William Sound.
With Ling cod opening July 1, and a big celebration on the Fourth of July, Valdez should be hopping while the pink salmon make their way into port. The Independence Day celebration will feature a block party, community bonfire and fireworks. On Saturday, July 6, Valdez will put on the Pink Salmon Festival with a cook-off, community fish fry and other events. The Kids Pink Salmon Derby is set for Saturday, July 20. The Kids Derby is open to children age 5 to 16 and there is no fee to enter. Kids just need to weigh-in a pink salmon at the Valdez Fish Derbies weigh-in station that Saturday to get a t-shirt and have a chance of winning one of the top three spots in their age division. A free family barbeque and awards will follow the day of fishing. The first 300 kids to stop by the weigh-in will get a free t-shirt, courtesy of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and the Valdez Fish Derbies. The Silver Salmon Derby will start July 20 and the Women’s Derby is August 9-10.