VALDEZ, Alaska – The overall leaders in the Valdez Halibut Derby have all tipped the scales at more than 100 pounds, and the top three spots are all held by Alaskans. Gary Gardner of Valdez is leading the Halibut Derby with a 133.2 pound halibut he caught June 7th. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when you have a big fish when they first hit, but Gary knew. “I knew it had some size to it, it took a lot of line so that’s telling me it’s not a rockfish,” said Gardner. Rick Fleming of Palmer, Alaska is currently in 2nd place with a 128.9 pound halibut he caught May 24th and Jared Van Putten of Valdez is barely hanging onto his third place position. Van Putten reeled in a 123.2 pound halibut on June 5th.
While all three top spots are held by Alaskans, a few anglers from out of State gave the Alaskans a run for their money. Brenda Raynor of Charlotte, North Carolina reeled in a 123.0 pound halibut June 10th and just missed the overall leaderboard by two tenths of a pound. Raynor might have missed out on the overall leaderboard, but she isn’t going home empty handed. Raynor won the 2nd place weekly prize in the halibut derby, just behind Gardner who took 1stplace for the week in addition to the lead in the derby. Gardner also stands to win $1,000 in addition to the regular derby prizes if his halibut hangs on through Monday, June 14th and captures the Halibut Hullabaloo prize.
With better weather this past week, anglers have been able to get out to the fishing grounds further out in Prince William Sound. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, many anglers are reporting the success of catching some decent size halibut with bigger fish getting caught out toward Montague. They recommend spending time anchored up and using a chum bag to increase likelihood of success. The Valdez Halibut Derby has a $10,000 first place prize and runs through September 5th.
Valdez Fish Derbies is seeing a few more out-of-state anglers in town as they are finding Valdez is a very accessible walking community. For those looking to fish for other species, rock fish are coming into Valdez in big numbers and Alaskans are enjoying great catching of Prince William Sound shrimp. Alaska Department of Fish and Game has reported that Blueberry and Thompson Lakes just outside of Valdez as well as Ruth Pond in Valdez will be stocked toward the end of June.
The Valdez Fish Derbies will be hosting the Kids Pink Salmon Derby Saturday, July 24th and the Women’s Silver Salmon Derby is August 14th. The big in-person events for the Kids Derby and Women’s Derby will not happen, but the events will happen similar to 2020 and all prizes are all back to the pre-COVID levels for 2021. For more information, visit www.valdezfishderbies.com.
Rick Fleming is holding down second with this 128.9-pounder.