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New leaders landed in Homer and Valdez halibut derbies

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: August 2, 2018
  • Published August 1, 2018

People in Valdez take photos of the 285.8 pound halibut caught last week by Patricia Johnson of Clovis, California. The fish leads the summer-long Valdez Halibut Derby. (Photo from KVAK Radio)

After more than two months of competition in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, 25 halibut have been entered and one of the 115 tagged fish swimming in Kachemak Bay have been caught.

Two of the derby's top three halibut were caught last week, including the 221.4-pound derby leader. Ashley Camp of Vancouver, British Columbia, landed the 76-inch flatfish Saturday while fishing with Midnight Sun Charters.

The day before, Joshua Hurst of Lexington, Kentucky, caught a 68.5-inch, 128.2-pound halibut that ranks as summer's third-biggest catch in the Homer derby. Second place belongs to Bevilyn Wright of Dalhart, Texas, who reeled in a 79-inch, 194-pound halibut in mid-July.

Since its May 15 start, the derby has averaged about one entry every three days.

"It's been slow, but we're seeing more and more as we come to the end of July," Debbie Speakman of the Homer Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday.

Last week also yielded the halibut leader in the Valdez fish derbies, where a total of 53 halibut have been entered, ranging in size from 63 pounds to 285.8 pounds.

The 285.8-pounder was caught July 26 by Patricia Johnson of Clovis, California.

Tagged fish aren't a big part of the Valdez halibut derby, which ends Sept. 2 and pays $10,000 for the biggest fish, $3,000 for second place and $1,500 for third place.

But they're part of the draw in Homer, Speakman said.

"That's where the money is," she said.

Among the 115 tagged fish are one worth $25,000 and another worth $10,000. The rest are worth $1,000, $500 or $250. If you catch a tagged fish that survived previous years' derbies, it's worth $100.

The Homer derby's $150 prize for a "lefty" halibut — ones with the eyes on its left side instead of its right side — was awarded to Jennifer Comstock of Lapine, Oregon. Only one out of 20,000 halibut are lefties, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The Homer derby ends Sept. 15. Last year's winner, Sam Mills of St. Maries, Idaho, earned $15,241 for his 240-pound halibut.