Two clients aboard a sport fishing charter each caught a Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby tagged fish in a three-day span during a recent fishing trip out of Homer.
“I’ve been fishing my whole life,” Captain John McLeod said. “The first tag fish I got (that week) was the first I ever caught, and then two days later, we caught another one.”
On June 19, McLeod’s client from the Lower 48 reeled in the captain’s first derby-tagged halibut. But the client had no derby ticket, so they released it.
On the third day of the charter, McLeod’s client from California caught the second tagged halibut McLeod had ever pulled in on his boat. And this time, his client had a derby ticket. The halibut had been tagged 1544.
“And sure enough we killed it and got it certified,” McLeod said.
McLeod is captain of the Grande Alaska, a six-person boat in Tim Berg’s Alaska Fishing Adventures fleet. He has guided six seasons and has fished in Seward, Kodiak and Homer. He fishes every day, he said.
Each year, two weeks before the Homer Halibut Derby begins May 15, local captains catch, tag and release halibut for anglers to catch later. This year 115 are tagged, said Paula Frisinger, Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center derby coordinator.
So far, sport fishing charters have caught 13 tagged halibut. The derby ends Sept. 15. There are two categories contestants can win: “Just for the Halibut” and “Captains Prize.”
Prizes in the first category include $250, $500, $1,000, $10,000, a Ford F-150 pickup and $50,000. Winners are chosen randomly at the end of the derby season, so McLeod’s client must wait for his results.
“We could have the $50,000 tag fish caught; we could have the $10,000 — we won’t know until September,” Frisinger said.
The captain’s prize is given to the captain who chartered the boat that caught the largest halibut. Captain Scott Glosser, of Captain Scott’s Sportfishing, holds first place so far with a 197-pound halibut his client caught June 21. Last year the captains’ prize was $1,000.
Initially, McLeod said, he was discouraged he had to wait to find out if his client would win the derby. But now he doesn’t mind.
“It keeps hope in there for that expensive fish,” he said. “I’m OK with it. It kind of makes it more fun. It’s kind of like having a winning lottery ticket and you don’t know what it’s worth for three months.”