Silver salmon derby off to great start on heels of kids derby
Competition in the Valdez Halibut Derby went into overdrive Sunday after Jim Culley of Fairbanks brought in a 325 pounder.
Culley said he has been halibut fishing several times, but the largest he had ever caught was 60 pounds.
“Today I caught an 80 pounder, then a 325,” Culley said during the dockside excitement that followed as news spread of his catch.
Culley was fishing out by Hinchinbrook Lighthouse and gave credit to Captain Dave Wiley of the “Dan Orion” for putting him on the fish.
“There’s no secret, just hang on and grind,” he said, adding that he had caught several small halibut in Valdez but said he could tell the difference between the small ones he had pulled in and the mammoth fish he pulled in Sunday. “You can definitely tell the difference…The whole way they run. The way they pull, the way they feel.”
There is still a lot of time to fish between now and the end of the silver and halibut derbies September 2. When asked about his chances maintaining the season’s lead, Culley remained skeptical.
“It’s a nice fish, but you never know. I mean, there are big fish out there,” he said. “The record here is 400, out of Dutch Harbor. No reason it can’t happen here. It’s the same ocean.”
Despite his great lead in the derby, Culley is not counting his chickens before they hatch.
“I haven’t thought that far,” Culley said when asked what he would do if his halibut hung on to win the $15,000 grand prize in the derby. “I’m going to have to ask my wife.”
Before Culley became the talk of the town, young fishers were slaying the pink salmon Saturday when nearly 300 younsters converged on Valdez for the sixth annual Kids Pink Salmon Derby. The largest fish brought in was a 5.38 pound pink caught by Kyle Eames of Anchorage.
The Silver Salmon Derby started Saturday, and among the string of pink salmon caught by anglers young and old, a large number were bright silver salmon. Michael Freerksen of Valdez won the first place daily prize on the first day of the derby with a 12.12 pound silver he caught from a private boat. Freerksen is currently in the lead for the overall derby. Crista Anderson of Valdez won the second place daily prize with a 8.02 pounder.
On July 15, Julie White of Wasilla broke into the halibut derby standings when she caught a 169.4 pound halibut aboard the Dan Orion. White is currently in third place overall, behind Jeff Johnson of North Pole who caught a 208.6 pound halibut back in late June.