By McKibben Jackinsky
When Austin Nelson, a member of the U.S. Army and the angler who reeled up a 252.2-pound halibut in mid-August, found out he won the Homer Halibut Jackpot Derby, he travelled from his station in North Pole to accept his prize in person at the awards event on Wednesday, Sept. 21. $15,419.50
“This is the biggest sum of money I’ve ever won. I consider myself an avid gambler so I feel like I’m getting some of my money back,” Nelson said.
After holding the top derby position for about a month, Austin Nelson of North Pole is officially the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby winner. His winnings are currently estimated at $15,378, according to Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby Coordinator Kim Royce.
Nelson, originally from Texas, moved up to North Pole with the U.S. Army. He came down to halibut fish in Homer for the first time and reeled in a 252.2-pound halibut on Aug. 16, which he named Henrietta.
As the end of the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby draws near, the top place is still held by Austin Nelson from North Pole and his 252.2-pound halibut that he caught on Aug. 16.
Unless another angler with a derby ticket reels up a larger halibut by 7 p.m. this evening, Nelson will take first place in the derby and reap the cash reward.
Tyler Dullum of Reno, Nev., caught the first left-handed halibut of the 2016 season on Tuesday, Aug. 23. Dullum was fishing with Captain Bryan Bondioli on the Ashtikan from Captain B’s Alaskan C’s Adventures. In Bondioli’s 24 years of fishing, he has only seen about three lefty halibut out of the approximately 600,000 halibut in total over his career, he told the Homer Halibut Jackpot Derby Shack. Left-handed halibut win their angler a $100 prize, according to the 2016 Homer Halibut Jackpot Derby brochure. Halibut are usually right-handed with both eyes on the right side.
The pace is picking up in the race for the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby winner.
On Aug. 11, Daniel Spies of Soldotna reeled in a 251-pound halibut taking the top spot with a 6-pound difference from the previous leader. His victory was short lived.
On Aug. 16, Austin Nelson of North Pole snatched the lead from Spies with a 252.2-pound halibut — just 1.2 pounds heavier.
Spies reeled in his winner when he took his construction company employees out fishing on his boat, “On the Job.”
Greg Betts from Boise, Idaho took the lead spot in the Jackpot Halibut Derby with a 244-pound halibut. Betts was fishing with Capt. Mike Crawford on the Kachemak King from Bob’s Trophy Charters on July 30.
Kim McCallum of San Antonio, Texas, brought in a 149.9-pound halibut. McCallum’s catch was 17.3 pounds short of the 167.2-pound derby leader. McCallum reeled in the halibut while fishing with O’Fish’ial Charters with Captain John Osteen.
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Two anglers in the last week found themselves pulling giant halibut out of the ocean without a derby ticket to their names.
David Pudlosky of Mountain Top, PA, caught a 246-pound halibut on July 25 while fishing with Captain Heath Harrington from Inlet Charters on the Dutch Treat. Pudlosky, 68, said the fish is the biggest one he has caught in his entire life.
“It was hard getting it on the boat after we got it. I had to harpoon it and then shoot it with a .410 shotgun,” Pudlosky said.
The halibut derby had nine days of quiet before another angler brought in a fish, as the last fish worth money was a 2015 tagged fish brought in on July 8. Gayle Muggli of Miles City, MT, remains the derby leader with the 167.2-pound halibut she caught, also on July 8.
Lita Lubitsh-White of Anchorage caught a 2016 tagged fish sponsored by Nauti Cs Charter on July 17. Lubitsh-White won $250 for the fish, which she reeled in on her private boat.
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Three days after the derby gained a new leader with a 165-pound halibut caught by a Washington State woman, Gayle Muggli of Miles City, Mont., caught a 167.2-pound halibut on July 8.
Muggli is the third of three women to take the top position in the Jackpot Halibut Derby.
Muggli caught the fish while on the Diamond Cape with Captain Travis Blount from Homer Ocean Charters. Her halibut beat out the previous fish by 2.2 pounds, according to derby coordinator Kim Royce.
Other derby news includes:
Alisa Sands of Lake Stevens, Wash. snatched up the title of derby leader when she caught a 165-pound halibut on July 5. Sands caught the whopper of a fish while fishing with Captain David Bayes on the Grand Aleutian with Central Charters.
Previously, the derby leader was Marcella Kolberg of Palmer, who caught a 142.4-pound halibut on May 29.
Other than Sands’ big catch, the derby waters have been fairly quiet, with only two new fish brought in in the last couple weeks.
Palmer resident still holds
top spot in halibut derby
Two more anglers caught tagged fish in the week of June 13. However, none overthrew Marcella Kolberg of Palmer from her seat as the current Jackpot Halibut leader. Kolberg caught a 142.4 pound halibut on May 29.
Karla Fischer of Garrison, N.D., caught a 2016 tagged fish aboard North Country Charters on June 14, winning $250.
Gillian Glidewell of Anchorage caught a 2016 tagged fish while fishing with Alaska Saltwater Adventures on June 16, winning $500.
Anglers visiting Homer from various spots in the Lower 48 caught four tagged fish in the past two weeks, according to Jackpot Halibut Derby coordinator Kim Royce. Two of the fish caught had previous years’ tags, which are worth $100. One fish was released as part of the over-48-inches catch-and-release drawing for $1,000.
Garrett Tyson from Orlando, Florida, caught a fish with a 2015 tag on June 9. Tyson was fishing on the SeaWolf with Capt. Philip Warren from Inlet Charters.
Palmer resident Marcella Kolberg’s weighed in the first fish of the 2016 Homer Halibut Jackpot derby season on Sunday, May 29. Kolberg's halibut was recorded as 142.4 pounds by Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby staff.
Last week’s big Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby news was the 335-pound halibut caught by 16-year-old Jackson Hobbs of Franklin, Idaho. This week it’s a 12.6-pound flat fish in the news, brought in by Andrew VanderPlaat of Pendleton, Ore.
When Jackson Hobbs, 16, begins school in his hometown of Franklin, Idaho, later this month, he’ll have quite a story to share about his summer vacation.
There’s some good new and some bad news in this week’s Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby action.
The bad news comes from Bill Brock of Anchor Point. Brock was fishing with Crystal Sea Charters aboard the Donna Mae on Sunday when he hooked into a tagged halibut. The tag was sponsored by Alaska Adventure Cabins, owned by Bryan and Karen Zak, and valued at $500. The bad part of that fishing story: Brock hadn’t purchased a $10 derby ticket prior to fishing.
Oregon angler Ned Friedman can breathe a sigh of relief. He and his 227.8-pound halibut are still in first place in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby.
Friedman of Chilquin, Ore., reeled in the behemoth July 24 while fishing with Capt. Greg Northover of Alaska Arctic Sun Fishing and Hunting aboard the Quintessence.
When it comes to spreading the word about the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, why not let the halibut do it?
That was the case with a 35-inch halibut caught by Shawn Berndt of Stoughton, Wis. On July 23, Berndt was fishing with Marv’s Fishing Charter way over in Harris Bay off the Gulf of Alaska near the entrance to Resurrection Bay when he hooked into a 35-inch halibut. Turned out the
halibut was sporting a 2011 Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby tag.