By McKibben Jackinsky
During the summer of 1986, the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby wasn’t the only fishing game in town.
That year marked the 8th annual Homer Halibut Derby sponsored by Rescue 21 and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, according to a Homer News story, July 3, 1986. That derby lasted a month, tickets were $2 a day or $5 for the season and the proceeds helped fund search and rescue efforts on Kachemak Bay. Prizes were awarded for the three biggest fish caught. The grand prize was a man’s gold nugget watch valued at $500, second place was a woman’s gold nugget watch worth $250; third place was a 2.2 horsepower outboard motor. A 12-speed bicycle was awarded for the heaviest fish caught by a youth angler. Daily and weekly prizes also were promised.
Then there was the Seldovia Sport Fishing Derby that ended on Labor Day of 1986 and offered a $1,000 grand prize. And there also was discussion among local halibut fishermen and skippers of organizing a “World Class Captains Charters Halibut Invitational Tournament.”
What is significant about 1986, however, is that it marks the beginning of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center’s Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, an event that continues to draw anglers to the Homer area.
That’s year’s jackpot prize went to Tony DeMichelle of Homer, who reeled in a 312-pound monster flatfish while fishing with Capt. Vic Hartley of Homer Ocean Charters on Aug. 17.
Interviewed by the Homer News shortly after he brought the fish in, DeMichelle said he planned to have the fish mounted. However, when asked how he intended to spend any prize money he might win, he was cautious.
“I haven’t won it yet,” he said.
As it turned out, DeMichelle was that year’s derby winner, taking home $13,700, representing a $5,000 contribution from the chamber plus $1 for each of the $2 derby tickets sold.
Flash forward 29 years and it is 16-year-old Jackson Hobbs in the winner’s seat. Hobbs caught a 335-pound halibut Aug. 19 while fishing with Capt. Travis Larson of Alaska Premier Sportfishing.
Hobbs’ trip to Alaska and the fishing trip were a gift from his grandfather as a reward for Hobbs having achieved Eagle status with the Boy Scouts.
After returning to his home in Franklin, Idaho, Hobbs followed the derby updates posted online by the chamber. Excitement among friends and family added to his anticipation as he waited for the Sept. 15 end of the derby.
When contacted by the Homer News on Tuesday, Hobbs had just heard about the derby results from his grandfather and fishing partner Tim Hobbs.
“This is pretty cool,” said the excited teenager.
Hobbs’ coveted first-place spot was briefly in question Sept. 12, when Randall Chadwick hooked into a sizeable halibut while fishing with Capt. Josh Brooks of Brooks AK Adventures. As it turned out, Chadwick’s catch weighed in at 301.40 pounds, close but no cigar to Hobbs’ fish.
“I was a little nervous though after that,” said Hobbs.
Having fished with Larson for several years, Tim Hobbs already has made reservations for next summer, bringing another grandson along.
The third largest fish in this year’s derby weighed 277.8-pounds and was caught by Ned Friedman on July 14 while fishing with Capt. Greg Northover of Alaska Arctic Sun Fishing and Hunting Expeditions aboard the Quintessence.
Seven tagged fish were caught in this year’s derby. Three worth $250 each were awarded to Larry Patson of Bullhead City, Ariz., Mark Mehalko of Grand Blanc, Mich., and Don Barney of Primeville, Ore. Two worth $500 each were awarded to Andrew Vander Plaat, hometown unknown, and Troy Patak of Ennis, Texas. Two tagged halibut worth $1,000 also were caught by Jim Morgan, hometown unknown, and Marie Burness of Roswell, N.M.
Three drawings were held to award $500 prizes in the released fish category. Those went to Brian Pendleton of Kirkwood, Mo., Pamela Coe of Ellensburg, Wash., and Matt Hines of Minnetonka, Mn.
It takes about a week for the chamber to certify derby results. A small press conference at the chamber is planned for Sept. 22, according to Jim Lavrakas, chamber executive director.
Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby
29 SEASONs OF WINNERS
Year, name, size of halibut, jackpot prize
2014 Jackson Hobbs, Franklin, Idaho, 335.0 lb., amount yet to be determined
2013 Gene Jones of Bellevue, Wash., 236.2 lb., $21,281
2012 James Peeples of Chico, Calif., 323.2 lb., $10,000
2011 Chad Aldridge of Soldotna, 350.8 lb., $28,260
2010 Jamie Lynn Olvera of Fairbanks, 277.6 lb., $40,610
2009 Thomas Youngblood of Homer, 354.6 lb., $40,440
2008 Jeff Pardi of San Rafael, Calif., 348.2 lb., $45,475
2007 Jerry Saunders of Chugiak, 358.4 lb., $37,243
2006 Duane Olson of Anchorage, 341.8 lb., $43,612
2005 Jim Corliss of Corvallis, Ore., 310.4 lb., $48,504
2004 Don Hanks of Sparks, Nev., 352.6 lbs., $51,298
2003 Joseph Volk of Reedsville, W.V., 345.4 lbs., $46,302
2002 Clayton McDowell of Eagle River, 347 lbs., $48,675
2001 Tom Barkman of Homer, 322 lbs., $33,514
2000 David Chaparro of Chicago, Ill., 337 lbs., $31,820
1999 John McCray of Tuttle, Ok., 295 lbs., $30,300
1998 Sean Coy of Wasilla, 320.8 lbs., $25,392
1997 Jeffrey Council of Newberg, Ore., 359.3 lbs., $28,844
1996 Jerry Meinders of Willmar, Minn., 376.lbs., $25,984
1995 Jim Clymer of Homer, 346.9 lbs., $31,730
1994 Mike Wagner of Santa Rosa, Calif., 307.1 lbs., $18,734
1993 Yolanda McCarter of Escondito, Calif., 307.8 lbs., $18,644
1992 Patrick Niekamp of Ft. Recovery, Ohio, 308.5 lbs., $20,096
1991 Lonnie Crum of Anchorage, 304.8 lbs., $18,434
1990 Steve Thomas of Delta Junction, 312.5 lbs., $12,306
1989 William Lawrence of Anchorage, 275 lbs., $10,864
1988 Vince DeGeorge of San Clemente, Calif., 262 lbs., $9,631
1987 Ruby Caswell of Wasilla, 315.5 lbs., $5,000
1986 Tony DeMichelle of Homer, 312.0 lbs., $13,700
Jackpot prize total: $796,693