VALDEZ, Alaska – When Steve Peichel got a call from his sister one night asking him if he would bring a puppy to Alaska and come for a visit he said, “Well I can’t refuse that offer, so I got on a plane and six hours later I was in Valdez”. Peichel delivered the puppy to his sister who lives just outside of Valdez and the trip delivered a whole lot more than a puppy. Peichel went halibut fishing and reeled in a 246.8-pound halibut which ended up winning him $10,000 in the Valdez Halibut Derby.
“Yeah, it’s a very big prize,” said Peichel about three weeks before the end of the derby. “If I hang on, I’ll be thrilled but any of the other prizes I’ll be thrilled as well. The experience is what I came for and this is just all the extra”.
Experiencing Valdez was paramount for Penny Skuza of Riverdale, North Dakota as well. In fact, Skuza and her husband love Valdez so much they got married standing in the waterfall at the Crooked Creek Salmon Turnaround in Valdez back on August 16th of 2015. The couple return to Valdez for two weeks each summer to fish for silver salmon, and this year they caught a derby winning salmon worth $10,000 on their Anniversary. Skuza’s 14.50-pound silver salmon is the smallest on record to win the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. Skuza said her line was 65 feet deep when she hooked the salmon and she said it was hard to reel in. In many years, big salmon come in the final days of the derby, but Skuza’s fish held onto first through the end of the derby September 5th. Pravat Phumin of Valdez, came close to the lead with a 14.20-pound fish he caught August 31st but ended up taking home $3,000 and 2nd place. Ron Schutz of Grapevine, Texas finished in 3rd place and takes home $1,500 with the 14.10-pound silver he caught August 18th.
Maren Russman of Lino Lakes, Minnesota won 2nd place and will take home $3,000 in the Valdez Halibut Derby with the 214.8-pound halibut she caught July 21st. Terrence McCabe of Valdez finished in 3rd place and will get a $1,500 check for the 202.0-pound halibut he caught July 5th. For a list of all the 2021 winners the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby, Halibut Derby, Women’s Derby, Big Prize Friday and Tagged Fish Contest can be found at www.valdezfishderbies.com.