FAIRBANKS — The Valdez Halibut Derby is off to a small start.
Steven Adams of Valdez caught a 136.1-pound fish last Wednesday with Orion Charters to claim top honors for the first week, and Benjamin Davis of Fairbanks was second with a 127.1-pound halibut he caught with Orion Charters on Saturday.
Considering that the winning derby fish has been over the 300-pound mark in six of the past eight years, neither Adams’ or Davis’ names are expected to remain on the leader board for long, but their catches were big enough to net them weekly prizes.
The Valdez derby started on May 19 and runs through Sept. 3. As in past years, the derby participant who catches the biggest halibut of the summer will net a $15,000 first-place check. Second place is worth $5,000 and third pays $2,000.
Last year, Annette Guitierrez of Albuquerque, N.M., reeled in the big prize with a 335.7-pound halibut she caught on a private boat on July 2.
You don’t have to catch a big halibut to win big, either. Anyone who buys a derby ticket is entered into a derby-ending drawing for a new Ford F-150 pickup truck from Seekins Ford in Fairbanks. Derby tickets are $10 for a day and $50 for a season.
This year’s Halibut Hullaballoo will be June 15-24. The angler who catches the largest halibut during the 10-day tournament wins a $1,000 cash prize. Fish caught in the Hullaballoo are also eligible to be entered in the derby.
One thing is certain: There will be fewer charter boats operating in Valdez this year. A few long-time charter captains have opted out of the charter business this year, including Dave Bruss and his boat, No Excuses. Bruss was one of the fleet’s most successful charter captains.
“I’m not sure how many boats will be operating this season, but it will definitely be less than last year,” Dave Wiley of Orion Charters wrote in an email.
A California man has the early lead for the biggest fish in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby.
Evan Bryers of Granite Bay, Calif., caught a 107.4-pound halibut with Captain Scott’s Sportfishing on Sunday.
In past years, the Homer derby used a winner-take-all format, but the rules were changed this year. The angler who catches the biggest fish will win $10,000 this year.
There are also tagged fish that will net the angler who catches them a Ford F-150 pickup truck or cash prizes of $50,000, $10,000, $1,000, $500 and $250.
Only one tagged fish has been caught so far.
Derby officials won’t reveal the tagged fish prizes until the derby ends on Sept. 15.
Contact outdoors editor Tim Mowry at 459-7587.