Make no mistake, Calvin Carr of North Pole is happy to have netted $15,000 for winning the Valdez Halibut Derby, but it was a side of tartar sauce compared to what it felt like to reel in the 264-pound flatfish that won him the prize.
“The money is great but my biggest thrill was catching that fish,” Carr said on Tuesday as he was packing up to go moose hunting. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The Valdez halibut and silver salmon derbies came to an end on Sunday with Carr atop the halibut leader board and Diana Doodehenko of Canada taking the $15,000 first-place prize in the silver salmon derby. Doodehenko’s fish weighed 17.88 pounds.
Carr, 32, was fishing with charter captain Dennis Petre aboard the Otter Dodger on Aug. 26 when he hooked the big flatfish about five minutes before Petre was planning to pull up anchor and head back to Valdez. Up to that point, it had been a pretty slow — and small — day.
“The fish we were catching were real small,” Carr said. “I thought, there’s no way we’re going to catch a big one.”
After he hooked what would be the derby winner, Carr said the fish proceeded to wrap the line around the anchor.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get it in or not,” he said.
It took him what he estimated was 30 to 45 minutes to reel in the fish, which ended up besting the second-place fish, a 237.7 pounder caught by Bill Kelly of Valdez two days later. Kelly won $5,000 for second place and Burke took home $2,000 for third.
He isn’t sure what he’ll do with his winnings but Carr said he’ll probably use some of it to help pay off a new four-wheeler he bought prior to going fishing.
“I don’t know yet; my mind’s on moose camp right now,” Carr said when asked what his plans were for the money.
With all that halibut in the freezer, Carr might have to use some of his winnings to buy another freezer if he gets a moose.
Unlike the halibut derby, in which the top two fish were caught in the final week, there were no last-minute surprises in the silver salmon derby.
Doodehenko caught her winning 17.88-pound fish way back on July 25 and nobody came close to challenging her. The second-place fish, worth $5,000 and caught by Tom Parker of Billings, Mont. on Aug. 18, weighed in at just 16.70 pounds. Third place and $2,000 went to Joel Brown of Valdez with a 16.10-pound silver caught on Aug. 15.
While both Carr and Doodehenko pocketed $15,000 for winning their respective derbies, it was Maliwan Turner of Valdez who was the big winner. Turner’s name was the one drawn as the winner of the four-wheel drive Ford F150 pickup truck. Anyone who purchased a derby ticket was eligible for the drawing for the truck.