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Fishing

Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby to end this year after a 34-year run

A new two-day derby will debut in 2020, the Homer Chamber of Commerce said.

Halibut are hung from hooks in Homer after a charter on June 19, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

One of the Alaska’s largest and most visible fishing derbies is getting the hook.

The Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center Board of Directors has voted to “retire” the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby after this year’s derby ends Sunday.

A new two-day halibut tournament will debut in June of 2020, the chamber said.

Founded in 1986, the derby annually awards prizes for the largest halibut caught in the Homer area and for catching tagged fish and releasing halibut.

“The chamber is grateful to all the sponsors and volunteers who have supported and made the Derby successful for so many years,” the chamber said in an emailed statement.

Chamber executive director Debbie Speakman said the annual chamber fundraiser “has kind of run its term.”

“It used to be the big draw for our halibut fleet and it’s not the big draw anymore,” she said.

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Speakman said the large commitment of time and resources no longer made sense for the chamber.

“We’re still the ‘Halibut Capital of the World,’ but people aren’t coming just for the derby anymore,” she said.

The current derby leader is Jason Schuler of Wahpeton, North Dakota, who caught a 224.2-pound halibut July 12. If Schuler’s fish is the biggest at derby’s end, he’ll win $5,000 plus $0.50 for each derby ticket sold.

The derby debuted in 1986 with a $13,700 cash prize for winner Tony DeMichelle, who caught a 312-pound flatfish. The largest prize ever awarded was in 2004, when Nevada angler Don Hanks hit a $51,298 jackpot for landing a 352.6-pound halibut. The largest fish in derby history was boated in 1996, when Minnesota’s Jerry Meinders hauled in a 376.9-pound whopper.

But prize money, entries and the size of the fish has dwindled in recent years. No fish has cracked the 300-pound barrier since 2014, and last year’s prize — $8,677 — was the second-smallest in derby history.

“It’s sad to put it to bed, but everything must run its course,” Speakman said.

Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby Winners:

1986 — Tony DeMichelle, Homer, 312.0 lbs $13,700

1987 — Ruby Caswell, Wasilla, 315.5 lbs $5,000

1988 — Vince DeGeorge, San Clemente, California, 262 lbs $9,631

1989 — William Lawrence, Anchorage, 275 lbs $10,864

1990 — Steve Thomas, Delta Junction, 312.5 lbs $12,306

1991 — Lonnie Crum, Anchorage, 304.8 $18,434

1992 — Patrick Niekamp, Ft. Recovery, Ohio, 308.5 lbs $20,096

1993 — Yolanda McCarter, Escondito, California, 307.8 lbs $18,644

1994 — Mike Wagner, Santa Rosa, California, 307.1 lbs $18,734

1995 — Jim Clymer, Homer, 346.9 lbs $31,730

1996 — Jerry Meinders, Willmar, Minnesota, 376.lbs $25,984

1997 — Jeffrey Council, Newberg, Oregon, 359.3 lbs $28,844

1998 — Sean Coy, Wasilla, 320.8 lbs $25,392

1999 — John McCray, Tuttle, Oklahoma, 295 lbs $30,300

2000 — David Chaparro, Chicago, Illinois, 337 lbs $31,820

2001 — Tom Barkman, Homer, 322 lbs $33,514

2002 — Clayton McDowell, Eagle River, 347 lbs. $48,675

2003 — Joseph Volk, Reedsville, West Virginia, 345.4 lbs. $46,302

2004 — Don Hanks, Sparks, NV, 352.6 lbs $51,298

2005 — Jim Corliss, Corvallis, OR, 310.4 lb $48,504

2006 — Duane Olson, Anchorage, 341.8 lb $43,612

2007 — Jerry Saunders, Chugiak, 358.4 lb $37,243

2008 — Jeff Pardi, San Rafael, CA, 348.2 lb $45,475

2009 — Thomas Youngblood, Homer, 354.6 lb $40,440

2010 — Jamie Lynn Olvera, Fairbanks, 277.6 lb $40,610

2011 — Chad Aldridge, Soldotna, 350.8 lb $28,260

2012 — James Peeples, Chico, CA, 323.2 lb $10,000

2013 — Gene Jones, Bellevue, IA, 236.2 lb $21,281

2014 — Jackson Hobbs, Franklin, ID, 335 lb $16,731.50

2015 — Linda Scott, Bloomington, MN, 224.4 lb $15,216.50

2016 — Austin Nelson, North Pole, 252.2 lb $15,419.50

2017 Sam Mills, St. Maries, ID, 240.0 lb $15,241.00

2018 — Ashley Camp, Vancouver, BC, 221.4 lb $8,677

(Source: Homer Chamber of Commerce)

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the size of Meinders’ winning fish.