Halibut: That’s the (derby) ticket

Posted: Friday, June 30, 2006

Fair weather and favorable tides may make for some fantastic flat-fishing this weekend.

“It’s been really good with lots of fish being brought in,” said Linda Winters, a Homer Chamber of Commerce employee, in regard to the ongoing Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby.

As is typical to years past, halibut being caught are getting larger as the season progresses. In May, none of the five largest fish caught weighed more than 200 pounds. In fact, the fish caught by the monthly winner for June only weighed 162.6 pounds.

While still respectable compared to the average 30-to 40-pound chicken, this halibut was small by comparison to the monthly leaders for June, which weighed — from first to fifth place — 296.2 pounds, 286.6 pounds, 256 pounds, 225 pounds and 207.4 pounds, respectively.

“The 296-pounder is the current overall derby leader as well as the monthly leader for June,” Winters said.

This flat fish was caught by Eagle River resident David Brand while fishing aboard the “Wildcat,” a vessel with Capt. Mike’s Charters and skippered by Capt. Dan Storrs.

While this fish may land Brand the $1,000 first prize for the month of June — unless someone catches a larger fish today, Winters said she doubted it would be enough to win the derby overall.

“We get our biggest fish in July and August, so we’ll probably have something over 300 pounds by the end,” she said.

Anglers interested in participating in the derby are reminded to purchase their $10 daily ticket in advance of fishing. Tickets are available at more than 30 vendor locations in Homer.

“This Saturday we’ll al-so be having an Independence Day Tournament,” Winters said.

She explained this one-day event is a fundraiser to support the fish stocking program at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit. Entry tickets for the tournament are available for $100, and if a ticket is also purchased for the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, a single barn-door halibut could win prizes in both, Winters said.

As for salmon, Brain Miller of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing in Soldotna said the Russian River is still the place to be for rod-bending fun.

“It’s still going strong there,” he said.

The weir, located at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake, has recorded a tremendous number of fish passing by this week. On Monday, 7,766 sockeye made it through, followed by 5,710 on Tuesday and another 4,873 on Wednesday for a cumulative 48,091 salmon so far this season.

While the Russian River and upper Kenai River remain fast and furious, things on the lower Kenai are moving more into a transition period as early-run kings are starting to move past their peak.

“The fishing has been fair to good depending on who you talk to, but there are still kings being caught,” Miller said.

The number of kings being counted by the sonar station located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the Kenai River dropped off significantly from last week, when several 1,000-plus fish days were recorded.

On Monday, 369 kings were counted, followed by 553 on Tuesday and 578 on Wednesday for 21,749 early-run kings so far this season.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports similar king fishing conditions on the Kasilof River where the run has also moved past its peak. Boat anglers have reported declining success and bank anglers have been catching next to nil.

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