The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Valdez Fish Derbies
For the Star 

Big bucks: tens of thousands of derby dollars awarded

There are still plenty of fish in the sea despite end of derby season


Courtesy Valdez Fish Derbies

This fish won $15,000 for fisher Brad Burch of Clackamas Oregon. This fish won $15,000 for fisher Brad Burch of Clackamas Oregon. This fish won $15,000 for fisher Brad Burch of Clackamas Oregon.

Tens of thousands of dollars in cash prizes were awarded to the season's top anglers in the Valdez Fish Derbies.

Oh, and one lucky winner reeled in $10,000 just for buying a derby ticket.

Erik Pihlaja of Fairbanks won the big prize Sunday night just for entering the derby.

While Pihlaja won by the luck of the draw - everyone who buys a derby ticket is also entered in the drawing for ten thousand dollars - the winners of the silver and halibut derbies won by catching "the big one."

Brad Burch of Clackamas Oregon reeled in his 296.2 pound winning halibut August 26 aboard the "Magic Dragon." Burch was well aware of the $15,000 first place prize in the Halibut Derby and said he knew from looking at the record books that his was a big enough fish to hold on to the end. Before his halibut was even cut into pieces, he said he knew what to do with the money.

"I will give some to the Captain and pay off some of my bills," he said.

Karen Phillips of Fairbanks also won $15,000 in the derby. She reeled in a 16.48 pound silver August 19 from the decks of the "Bigfoot" which indeed turned out to be the largest derby caught coho of the season.

Valdez man Chris Thoma won second place - and a cool $5,000, for his August 7 catch. Thoma's 16.82 pound silver easily beat out third-place winner, Michael Dalelio. His 15.98 pound silver - which was worth a $2,000 - was caught August 21.

Fred Hyder of Willow, who held the lead in the halbut derby for around six weeks, took second place and $5,000 cash. His 253.8 pounder was caught July 10 from the "Jaime Lynn." Joe Sharp of Whitesville, New York took third place and $2,000 cash with a 226.6 pound halibut he caught August 26 from the "Jaime Lynn."

This final Big Prize Friday was won by Ralph Evans of Marietta, Georgia. Evans reeled in a 12.76 pound silver to net himself the $500.

Brad Burch's winning Halibut was caught aboard the "Magic Dragon" and the Captain of that boat, Tom Swafford of Fairbanks, won the $500 Captains prize. In the Silver Salmon Derby, it was Lyle Phillips of Fairbanks that won the Captains Prize. The business selling the winning Halibut Derby ticket and the winning Silver Salmon Derby ticket was Easy Freeze and they win a $500 ticket sellers prize for both derbies.

Next year's dates, as well as pictures and information about the 2015 winners, can be found at


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