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

By Valdez Fish Derbies
For the Star 

Halibut derby begins and the prizes are already flowing into hands of anglers

Fairbanks youth takes the lead and is the first weekly winner of this year's season


Photo courtesy Valdez Fish Derbies

Clayson Wiley of North Pole took first place in the first week of the Valdez Halibut Derby.

The Valdez Halibut Derby has kicked off and anglers are already enjoying the rewards.

Joanne Winney, Valdez Fish Derbies Weigh-In Clerk, said there were 11 fish weighed in the first week of the derby – somewhat of a slow start - but all the flat fish weighed in at over 72 pounds.

On Saturday, 16-year-old Clayson Wiley of North Pole reeled in the largest fish so far - a 148.4 pounder - from aboard the "Dan Orion."

Wiley said, "My parents approached me a month ago and said, `Hey you want to go to Valdez?' I said `no' and they said `great, we're going on the twenty-fifth.'"

Wiley's parents bought him a seat on a charter and a derby ticket and it paid off when he reeled in the largest fish he has ever caught.

In an interview following the big catch, Wiley showed up sporting the Valdez Fish Derbies fleece jacket he won for the first-place weekly prize and talked about his day fishing.

"I grabbed a chicken tender and things went to chaos" said Wiley. "I was deathly afraid while reeling it in, (I thought) it was going to be a little bitty one. I didn't want to struggle that much for a 15-pound fish," he said.

On Sunday, members of the Alaska military visited Valdez and the number of boats going out for halibut dramatically increased. The boats did not profit, having donated their time to Military Appreciation Day. As part of Military Appreciation Weekend, the City of Valdez coordinates a program where boat owners donate halibut charters so first and second year Alaska-stationed military members can enjoy a day of halibut fishing. The City of Valdez also hosts military appreciation picnics and barbeques open to visitors and the community.

Charter Captains in Valdez are preparing for a busy season as anglers have high hopes of being the winner of the $10,000 first place prize. A ticket costs $10 for the day or $50 for the season and must be purchased before heading out on the water. Ticket sale locations can be found at

The limit for halibut in Prince William Sound is still two per person, and one of those fish can be no longer than 29 inches in length. Halibut weigh-ins are conducted at the derby shack, located kitty-corner from the Harbormaster's office.

In addition to the grand prize of $10,000, second-place prize of $3,000 and third place of $1,500 for catching the largest three fish of the season, halibut derby anglers can also win weekly first and second place prizes.

The Halibut Hullabaloo – a derby within the derby - is slated for June 8 through 17. The angler catching the largest halibut during this period will win $1,000 in addition to the daily prizes.

This year, the Valdez Fish Derbies will also hold a drawing for $5,000 cash and everyone who purchases a ticket will be in the raffle - whether they go fishing or not. Every daily derby ticket purchased equals one raffle ticket, and each season ticket purchased equals five raffle tickets for the $5,000 drawing at the end of the season.

The Kids Pink Salmon Derby has been set for Saturday, July 21 and will feature first through third-place prizes in four different age divisions. The Kids derby is free and open to kids age 5 to 16 years of age.

The Silver Salmon Derby in Valdez will again boast a $10,000 first-place prize for the season in addition to daily prizes. It begins July 21 and ends September 2.

The Annual Valdez Women's Derby is slated for Saturday, August 11, with an opening ceremony the Friday before and the closing ceremony that night.

There will be a $500 prize for the vendor and operator selling the winning derby ticket in both derbies.


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