Teen's massive 335-pound halibut seizes lead in Homer derby

Matt Tunseth
Sixteen-year-old Jackson Hobbs, left, stunned the field in the 2014 Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby when he brought a 335-lb. fish to be weighed at Derby Headquarters in the last half hour of the fishing day Tuesday, Aug. 19. Nyle Lightcap / Homer Chamber of Commerce

A good scout is always prepared, so before heading out of Homer to go halibut fishing Tuesday, Eagle Scout Jackson Hobbs of Franklin, Idaho, made sure to buy a $10 Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby ticket. Hobbs' devotion to preparedness could make him the youngest winner in derby history.

Fishing aboard the Venturess with skipper Travis Larson of Alaska Premier Sportfishing, Hobbs, 16, hauled in a monster 335-pound fish that bested the previous leader by more than 57 pounds.

Homer Chamber of Commerce director Jim Lavrakas said official derby records don't list the age of previous champions, but nobody he's spoken with can remember a younger angler winning the derby, which began in 1986.

"We believe this is the youngest possible derby winner in derby history," Lavrakas said Wednesday from Homer.

If Hobbs' fish remains the derby leader through the event's Sept. 15 conclusion, he'll take home at least $10,000. Before Hobbs weighed his fish, only one halibut weighing more than 200 pounds was on the leaderboard.

The fish was turned in just half an hour before Tuesday night's 9 p.m. deadline, narrowly escaping disqualification. Derby rules say any fish has to be caught the same day it's punched on an angler's derby ticket. Between the late weigh-in and the large size of the fish, Lavrakas speculated the fishing party must have gone far out of port to land the leviathan.

Hobbs reportedly told derby officials the fish "only took a half-hour to bring in."

Lavrakas said Hobbs is vacationing in Alaska, courtesy of a gift from his grandfather following completion of the teen's Eagle award, the highest honor in scouting.

The derby's previous leader was a 278-pound fish caught July 8 by Ned Friedman of Chiloquin, Oregon.

Lavrakas said fishing out of Homer has been strong lately, with numerous fish topping the 100-pound mark. "It's been really solid fishing," he said.

Plenty of tagged fish worth big prizes are still swimming in Kachemak Bay, he added.

As for Hobbs himself, the young angler was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Lavrakas said the teen was aiming to catch an even bigger halibut.

"He's out fishing right now on the same boat," Lavrakas said. 

The 335-pounder is the biggest halibut to lead the derby since Chad Aldridge of Soldotna won $28,260 for his 351-pound fish in 2011.

In the 24-year history of the derby, only a dozen winning fish have weighed more than Hobbs’ fish. Minnesotan Jerry Meinders 376-pounder is the biggest in derby history.

Contact fishing report columnist Matt Tunseth at mtunseth@alaskadispatch.com