It's been a long wait since Jeff Pardi of San Rafael, Calif., caught a 348.2-pound halibut July 9, but the wait was worth it. As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Homer Chamber of Commerce's 2008 Jackpot Halibut Derby officially came to a close with Pardi claiming first place, an estimated $45,000.
At last count, 18,000 $10 derby tickets were sold, with a final tally due later this week, said Paula Frisinger, derby coordinator. For each ticket, the winner receives $2.50.
"I made the call to Jeff and he is ecstatic," Frisinger said of delivering the good news to Pardi by phone.
Pardi was still ecstatic Wednesday morning, when he spoke with the Homer News.
"This is just amazing," said Pardi, who has been fishing since he was a boy.
This is his second time to fish out of Homer. He also has fished up and down the West Coast, on the East Coast and in Mexico and Costa Rica. Among his fish stories is an 85-pound dorado he caught on 25-pound test line. He also caught a 45-pound striped bass off Long Island.
The 348.2-pound halibut, however, gets top billing. Pardi was fishing for lingcod aboard the "Ocean Hunter," with Capt. Keith Kalke of Ocean Hunter Charters. They were about 50 miles out of Homer when Pardi, fishing in about 150 feet of water and using a 100-pound test line, hooked into the barn door. After a struggle that took more than an hour, Pardi finally had the eight-foot monster to the surface. It was dragged onboard the "Ocean Hunter" with the help of three others.
The last few minutes of the action were recorded on video and posted on the Marin Independence Journal Web site.
"You won the derby, dude," Kalke's voice shouts over the whoops and hollers. "The fishing trip is over. We're going in with her."
That may have put an end to Pardi's day of fishing, but not to the derby. What started at 12:01 a.m. May 1, continued through the summer with fishermen dropping hooks in the water, searching for something that outweighed Pardi's prize.
"(Frisinger's) has been so awesome through this whole thing," Pardi said. "She kept me informed of what was going on and kept saying, 'Jeff, it's not over yet.' Everybody else said, 'Jeff, you've got it.'"
As it turns out, he does.
The derby wraps up with an awards party at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, 4 p.m. Oct. 11, complete with a barbecue and door prizes. Pardi will be on hand to pick up his check and join in the festivities.
"How many things actually have to be in place to catch something like this -- the captain, the boat, the right place, right time, right bait. There's just so many things that come into play," Pardi said. "It was cool."
Pardi's fish and his winnings fit well within the Jackpot Halibut Derby's winners' circle. According to derby history provided by the chamber, it is the fifth largest halibut caught since the derby began in 1986.
The largest fish was hooked in 1996, weighed 376 pounds and won $25,984 for Jerry Meinders of Wilmar, Minn. The largest cash prize -- $51,298 -- went to 2004's first-place winner Don Hanks, of Sparks, Nev., for his 352.6-pound catch. The smallest winning halibut weighed 262 pounds, was caught in 1988 by Vince DeGeorge of San Clemente, Calif., and was worth $9,631. Ruby Caswell of Wasilla took home the smallest purse -- $5,000 -- for landing a 315.5 halibut in 1987.
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In May, the biggest halibut weighed 160.4 pounds and was caught by Wade Medema of Princeton, Minn., fishing on the "Sorceress" with Capt. Peter Karwowski of Magic Waters Charters. That hooked Medema the monthly first prize of $1,000. In June, John Calvert, Jr., of Stafford, Va., won the monthly prize of $1,000 by landing a 279.6 lunker fishing on the "Ashtikan," operated by Capt. Bryan Bondioli for Captain B's Alaskan C's Adventures.
With Pardi claiming first place for the monthly prize in July, Mike Anderson of Wasilla claimed a $750 second place with a 271.2-pound halibut he caught fishing on the "Solitude" with Capt. Larry Croft of Obsession Charters.
In August, Robert Warner of Lewiston, Idaho, hooked into a 310.4-pound behemoth, not enough to bump Pardi out of overall first place, but enough to claim the monthly top prize of $1,000. Warner was fishing aboard the "Solitude" with Capt. Croft of Obsession Charters.
During September, Pardi breathed easier with the month's biggest catch coming in at 154.4 pounds. That landed the month's first-place $1,000 prize for Paul Standifer of Chugiak, fishing aboard the "Mako" with Capt. Scott Glosser of Capt. Scott's Sportfishing.
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