VALDEZ, Alaska – How does it feel to catch a big fish and get on the leaderboard in the Valdez Halibut Derby? Pretty good if you ask Vanessa Gilbertson of North Pole who reeled in a 131.4-pound fish and took home the 2nd place weekly prize the last week of June. “I wasn’t really looking for the recognition, but then after it happened, I got a little sense of pride from it. I was like, yea, I did that!” Gilberston said. “When we came in there was a group of people staring like ‘oh, she caught that?’ It was a good feeling.”
Gilbertson’s fish was big enough to win a weekly prize, but not big enough to get on the overall derby leader board. And how long the overall leaders will stay on the board is anyone’s guess. Jeremy Smith of North Pole is currently leading the Valdez Halibut Derby with a 170.0-pound fish he caught June 23rd, 2nd place is being held by Chris Milles of Melbourne, Florida with a 150.0-pound fish and Kamille Mulcaire of Fairbanks is still clinging onto 3rd place with a 149.8-pound halibut she caught Jun 9th. In 2021, the top three cash prizes were won by anglers catching halibut more than 200 pounds so there’s a good chance of the leaders changing and the $10,000 grand prize going to someone who fishes in the last two months of the derby, and it just might be one of the earlier season weekly winners like Gilbertson. She caught her derby fish on her very first halibut trip and said, “Halibut fishing was definitely something different, and I will definitely be back.”
Valdez Halibut Derby anglers added lingcod to the list of fish they can catch when lingcod season opened July 1st. Alaska Department of Fish and game says rocky pinnacles are a good place to target these fish and they suggest fishing a few feet off the bottom to avoid excess rockfish catches.
Between the dates of May 2nd and May 15th, approximately 250 million pink salmon fry were released from the net pens at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. The fry averaged 0.47 grams and the port had a good population of zooplankton to feed on. 1.97 million Coho smolt were released in the middle of June. That’s good news for Pink Salmon and Silver Salmon runs in Valdez.
Valdez Fish Derbies is holding the Annual Kids Pink Salmon Derby Saturday July 23rd. Kids age 5 to 16 can get a free hat, fish in Valdez and enter their picture on the valdezfishderbies.com website for a chance to win prizes. There will be four $100 Grand prize winners chosen by random and eight other lucky kids will win a fishing pole. This is a free event sponsored by Valdez Fish Derbies to get kids involved in fishing. Anglers can catch pink salmon trolling the waters but there are also miles of accessible shoreline at Allison Point and anglers need only a fishing pole and a pixie, spinner or vibrax to hook a good one. CLICK HERE for more information about the 2022 Valdez Kids Pink Salmon Derby. The Women’s Silver Salmon Derby is slated for Saturday, August 13th.