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

By Valdez Fish Derbies
For the Star 

Big bucks handed out Sunday as the Valdez Fish Derbies season ends

Derby-record halibut takes the big prize and Georgia man lands biggest coho


September 6, 2017

Photo courtesy Valdez Fish Derbies

Frieda Wiley of Valdez won $15,000 Sunday for catching this derby-record halibut.

It came as no surprise Sunday when a certain Valdez woman became richer by $15,000.

Earlier this season, Frieda Wiley caught a 374 pound - setting a new Valdez Halibut Derby record and setting the bar high in the quest to win the top prize in the Valdez Halibut Derby.

Wiley stayed at the top of the board since catching that whopper halibut, caught August 6 aboard the "Dan Orion," her husband's fishing charter boat.

Tim Stadtmiller of Fairbanks took second place in the derby with a 266.6 pound halibut he caught June 19 and Brett Fickler of Omaha, Nebraska took third place with a 197.4 pound halibut he caught August 18. These two anglers took home $5,,000 and $2,000 respectively.

Cole Baxter's 15.62 pound silver salmon is one of the smallest silver salmon winners ever caught in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. In fact, there has only been one other silver salmon weighing less than 16 pounds that ended up a winner. The smallest silver to ever win the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby was Jim Burzinski's 15.11 pound silver caught back in 1971.

Organizers say that Valdez Silver Salmon derby is the oldest derby in the state but records for winners only date back to 1971. The derby was started by the Chamber of Commerce in 1952 and several years back, the late Bill Wyatt, owner of Bear Paw RV Park and also the proprietor of a small hotel in the 50's, said the prize for the first derby was $500 and the first winner of the silver derby was Loren St. Amond with an 18.8 pound silver salmon.

Many anglers braved the cold and rain in Valdez to best the 15.62 pound silver caught by Baxter, but his fish held on to win the $15,000 first place prize in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. Homer Huffman of Valdez took home the second place prize of $5,000 with a 15.10 pound silver salmon and third place was won by Randy Arndt of Wasilla, with a 14.98 pound silver salmon.

Big Prize Friday winner was Michael Swisher of Finksburg, Maryland, with a 14.38 pound silver he caught from shore. Swisher took home $500 in addition to the daily prizes. And the $10,000 cash prize winner for holding the winning ticket drawn at the Valdez Fish Derbies end-of the-year awards party was Roger Johnson from Great Falls, Montana. At press time, Johnson was camping and had not yet heard about his winning ticket.


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