North Pole angler snags derby lead

The pace is picking up in the race for the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby winner.

On Aug. 11, Daniel Spies of Soldotna reeled in a 251-pound halibut taking the top spot with a 6-pound difference from the previous leader. His victory was short lived.

On Aug. 16, Austin Nelson of North Pole snatched the lead from Spies with a 252.2-pound halibut — just 1.2 pounds heavier.

Spies reeled in his winner when he took his construction company employees out fishing on his boat, “On the Job.”

“The guys been working hard so I decided to take them out today and see what happened,” Spies said.

Spies pulled up the biggest fish he’d ever caught, in an undisclosed location he referred to as “out there.” The fish gave Spies a fight on the way up into the boat.

“(It was) like a boat anchor, heavy. It didn’t want to come up. Took us 30-40 minutes to get in. We shot it, harpooned it, to be safe, make sure no one gets hurt. You have to for a big fish like that, bringing it on board. Don’t want a broken leg or nothing.”

Although the halibut is Spies biggest catch, he’s no stranger to placing in the halibut derby. He always buys a derby ticket when he goes fishing in Homer, which is usually once or twice a week, and Spies came in fourth in the 2015 halibut derby with a 187-pound fish.

Nelson, Spies’ successor to the top derby spot, is from Houston, Texas originally but moved to North Pole for the U.S. Army. It took him about an hour to reel in “Henrietta,” as he named his halibut.

“We thought it was a ’97 Geo Metro on the way up because it wasn’t going anywhere and then we saw it and were relieved to see it was a giant fish instead,” Nelson said.

Nelson went out fishing with Homer Ocean Charters and it was his first time halibut fishing in Homer. He bought a derby ticket since the last time he fished he won the salmon derby in Valdez.

“I am very lucky and I think my roommate hates me,” Nelson said. “Henrietta … is going to be dispersed throughout my work because I don’t have enough room for Henrietta. I think she needs to find a new home, but I’ll keep about 50-75 pounds.”

Anna Frost can be reached at