Anglers fishing in the 37th annual Marina Del Rey Halibut Derby enjoyed some of the best fishing we’ve seen out of Santa Monica Bay in years. The tournament took place June 9-10, and the timing couldn’t have been better.
For the second year in a row, the Halibut Derby has awarded prizes for other species besides halibut and provided a special 20-percent weight credit for any halibut released alive to researchers. The tournament decided to apply the same 20-percent weight credit to calico bass this year to get more anglers to release their fish.
Although plenty of anglers signed up for serious fishing it was difficult to tell on Friday night in the parking areas and local bistros in Marina Del Rey as anglers gathered, partied, tailgated and enjoyed the local color of the Marina area. Despite an abundance of reveling and adult beverages the night before, anglers woke up Saturday morning to a gorgeous June day, ready for fishing.
Strategies varied… “Should we go for some big rockfish, target the normally elusive white sea bass that have been marauding around the bay or should we focus on getting a big barn door halibut?”
Anglers working the Santa Monica Bay were rewarded fast and furiously. Reports of huge halibut and white sea bass were heard, but for folks at the dock, seeing was believing. There was a definite buzz around the weigh-in dock as anglers started arriving with fish even before the 2 p.m. commencement to weigh in.
By the end of the first day, anglers and derby officials were awed and exuberant with the results — 31 anglers weighed in fish and all but three had white sea bass or halibut. And, there were some big specimens. All of the top five fish on the leaderboard exceeded 36 pounds with the top three weighing in at 48.8, 46.6 and 39.3 pounds, respectively — world class fishing by any standard!
Anglers were eager to get back out Sunday morning to tackle more big fish.
Sunday’s fishing was also off the charts with 25 big halibut coming to the scales as well as several white sea bass. Derby rules allow anglers to weigh in only one fish per day, and many anglers caught multiple fish on both days, so the total fish count actually exceeded the fish weighed in.
At the end of Derby, Daniel Ahman’s 48.8-pound halibut held the top spot on the leaderboard. Paul Thompson wasn’t far behind with a 46.6-pound white sea bass, and Farney Brown rounded out the top three with a 39.8-pound white sea bass.
Ahman and Stathis released their live, healthy fish into the hands and tanks of marine scientist Mike Shane from Hubbs Seaworld Research Institute and received a 20-percent weight credit which moved them up on the leader board. Ahman would have placed second but the release credit helped him win the Derby. Anglers released a total of 12 halibut to the scientists. These fish will be added to the facility’s broodstock. The large number of big halibut caught during the derby may be evidence that our local halibut population is in better shape than previously feared.
Paul Thompson won the derby jackpot for his 46.6-pound white sea bass, taking home an additional $1,200.
Josephine Smith earned the Top Lady Angler trophy and Arthur Lozano, Jr. swept the first and second prizes for the youth division with his 15.7- and 8.2-pound halibut caught on back-to-back days earning him two PENN rod-and-reel combos complements of West Marine. Daniel Medina came in third place in the youth division with his 6.3-pound halibut.
Top Team Honors went to Paul Thompson and Jeff Compton of Team Jack Pot, who split a prize of $820.
“This Derby is the oldest fishing tournament in California,” said Keith Lambert, MDRA’s vice president. “Thank you to every sponsor for making this event the best fishing tournament around and congratulations to all anglers.”
Proceeds from the MDR Halibut Derbies have traditionally funded the club’s MDRA Youth Fishing Program and its White Sea bass Grow-out Pens in Marina Del Rey. Last year the club hosted over 500 children on fishing trips over the summer, and its Youth Fishing Program for 2012 starts in July.
2012 Marina Del Rey Halibut Derby Winners
1. Daniel Ahman, Halibut, 48.8 pounds
2. Paul Thompson, White Seabass, 46.6 pounds
3. Farney Brown, White Seabass, 39.8 pounds
4. Bob Palmer, Halibut, 39.3 pounds
5. Jimmy Stathis, Halibut, 36.9 pounds