A Salcha fisherman lost his top spot on the Valdez Halibut Derby leader board after an Arizona angler pulled in a big fish last week.

James Ekstrom, of Mesa, Arizona, knocked Jeff Steenhoven into second place with the 144.6-pound halibut Ekstrom reeled in June 26 aboard the Bold Eagle, according to a derby news release. Steenhoven’s 143.4-pound fish won the weekly first place prize in the derby for the week of June 21, which bumped Valdez resident Gary Gardner from first to third place. Coming in third this week is Jessica Buchholz of Fairbanks, who brought in a 142.4-pound halibut June 20. Her fish won her the second place weekly prize and put her at second overall on the leader board for the week of June 21.Ekstrom’s spot this week knocked Gardner off the board.

“Looks like a lot of nice fish coming in early in the year, so it’s been really good,” Steenhoven said in a news release from the derby. 

Halibut derby overall leaders are Ekstrom in first with a 144.6 pounder, Steenhoven with his 143.4 pounder in second, and Bucholz in third with a 142.4 pound halibut.

In other Valdez fish news, according to the release, rockfish and halibut are catching well in Prince William Sound right now, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reporting good catches. The release also noted lingcod season opened Thursday, and some pink salmon have been spotted in the Sound.  

The Valdez Silver Salmon Derby also starts July 24, and the same day, the derby is hosting a free Kids Pink Salmon Derby. The Kids Pink Salmon Derby is open to age 5-16, and this year anglers will enter pictures via the derby website for a chance to win prizes, the release stated. For more information, see www.valdezfishderbies.com.

On the horizon, the Women’s Silver Salmon Derby is Aug. 14 with prizes awarded for the top three biggest fish.

Contact Gary Black at 459-7504.