Austin Nelson of North Pole beat out the current derby leader by a mere 1.2 pounds. Nelson caught the new top halibut on Aug. 16.

Austin Nelson of North Pole beat out the current derby leader by a mere 1.2 pounds. Nelson caught the new top halibut on Aug. 16.

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

Daniel Spies shows off his 251-pound derby leading halibut on Aug. 11.

Daniel Spies shows off his 251-pound derby leading halibut on Aug. 11.

More in Sports

Sports in brief

Hockey Upcoming meets: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2: Homer vs. Juneau, Kevin… Continue reading

Homer’s Alex Van Meter and Soldotna’s Blaze Michael tangle at 125 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, at Homer High School. Michael won by pin. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Area wrestlers collect mat time before Thanksgiving break

Area wrestlers got in some mat time Tuesday before the Thanksgiving break.… Continue reading

Fall colors, a dog and game in hand make for great outdoor experiences on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo by Colin Canterbury/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: On point this fall

His eyes were fixated on the white spruce before us. We knew… Continue reading

Ice sits ready to skate at Bottenintnin Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska on Nov. 1, 2020. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Tangled Up in Blue: Skipping skating

I was looking forward to ice skating this winter. I had bought… Continue reading

Soldotna junior Liam Babitt holds a grip on South Anchorage’s Britten Hamilton during the 215-pound final of the Lancer Smith Fall Varsity 2021 Invite on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2021 at the Menard Arena in Wasilla, Alaska. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)
Soldotna crowns 4 champions at Lancer Smith

The Soldotna wrestling team finished fourth Friday and Saturday at the Lancer… Continue reading

Mariner's Micah Williamson steals the puck from the Warrior's Karson McGrew as he advances down the rink. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Hockey roundup: West wins End of Road tourney

End of the Road Tournament The West hockey team won the End… Continue reading

Sports in brief

Hockey Upcoming meets: 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18: Kenai vs. West, End… Continue reading

Most Read