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.
Despite being a self-described gambler, Nelson doens’t plan to let this one ride. He said he will take the money and put it in a savings account.
“I’ll probably save most of it until next year and then hopefully put it down as a down payment on a new truck and buy some Slim Fast for him,” Nelson said, referring to his tall, already-slim friend Patrick Fatsimmos who came down to Homer with him.
Fatsimmos was on the boat with Nelson and helped him reel in the winning halibut, which took an hour. Also present at the appearance of the winning fish was Captain Travis Blount of Homer Ocean Charters who received $1,541.95, 10 percent of the derby winnings, for being the captain on the trip where Nelson caught the winning fish. Diane Borgman of Homer Ocean Charters received $1,000 for selling Nelson his derby ticket.
In addition to the biggest fish winner, the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby showered cash prizes on a few other anglers and businesses. Richard Greer of Minneapolis, Minn., was picked in the drawing for the $35,000 vehicle credit from Kenai dealership Stanley Ford. Chamber of Commerce Board President Tom Stroozas called to congratulate Greer during the award ceremony, who chose to take the $20,000 cash value for the car. Though there is not a winner in the vehicle credit drawing every year, this is the second year in the last three years that an angler won the drawing. The drawing for the $50,000 prize sponsored by GCI had no winner.
The drawing out of a pool of fish measuring over 48-inches pulled up Michael Brooks of Tipton, Mich., as the winner of $1,000.
The Chamber also awarded Sportsman’s Supply and Rental $250 for selling the most derby tickets as a retail business and $250 to Bob’s Trophy Chater for selling the most derby tickets as a charter. The Chamber estimated that Bob’s Trophy Charter sold approximately 1,800 tickets over the course of the derby.
Five youths — Seth Allen of Honolulu, Hawaii; Jordan Grey of Anchorage; Alexa Meyer of Rice Lake, Wis.; Katie Brown of Wasilla; and Nickolas Larson of Anchorage — were awarded $185 each for the drawing out of kids under the age of 12 who bought a derby ticket.
2016 tagged fish winners:
June 10 Tomm VanderHorst Arvada, CO $250
June 11 Christopher Cella Johnstown, OH $250
June 14 Karla Fischer Garrison, ND $250
June 17 Christian Hakiza Canyon, TX $250
July 17 Lita Lubitsh-White Anchorage, Ak $250
Aug. 7 Margie Dupuis $250
Aug. 11 Leslie Barilani Gig Harbor, WA $250
June 16 Gillian Glidewell Anchorage, Ak $500
July 29 Robert Wellman Clay City, IN $500
Aug. 2 Austin Hunter Bean Station, TN $500
Aug. 12 Richard Greer Apple Valley, MN $500
Aug. 1 Rebecca Cramer Denver, CO $1,000
Aug. 7 Jay Justice $1,000
Previous year tagged fish winners:
July 8 Spencer Hill Aurora, CO $100
July 8 Katie Kline Hummelstown, PA $100
July 2 Patricia Perkins Anchorage, AK $100
July 22 Keri Phillips Newcastle, WY $100
June 11 Mike Shirley Maple Valley, WA $100
June 9 Garrett Tyson Orlando, FL $100
Aug. 7 John Codiga Newburg, Ore. $100
Aug. 5 Holton Fowler Wasilla $100
Sept. 15 Victor Storia Grosse Ile, Mich. $100
July 29 Robert Wellman Clay City, Ind. $100
Anna Frost can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.