First-Rate Halibut Derby – Marina Del Ray Halibut Derby

The 36th annual Marina Del Ray Halibut Derby, held on May 14, was completely reinvented this year with the goal of attracting more anglers and at the same time reducing the pressure on the local Santa Monica Bay halibut population. Tournament organizers made it a one-day event, reduced the entry costs, added more fish species for awards, expanded the geographical boundaries of the tournament and put in place a special 20-percent weight credit for live halibut releases.

“We were looking for ways to make our traditional derby more inclusive to more anglers and at the same time put less pressure of our very local halibut stocks. Making the derby a one day event and lowering the entry cost to only $30 made it easier for everybody to participate,” said derby director Ken Raymond

Anglers began assembling the night before to get an early start on the tailgate party and prepare for fishing the next morning. On Saturday, derby anglers awoke to overcast but calm weather and everyone fished especially hard, knowing there would be no fishing the next day. Forgoing the big barracuda bite reported in the bay, many competitors worked inshore spots for halibut while others went out to the deeper grounds for rockfish.

Talk started early as a call came in about a big fish, and it turned out to be true. Anglers started arriving to weigh in their fish around 3 p.m. There was a definite buzz around the weigh-in dock as anglers and bystanders gathered to see the big fish that But’s Up brought to the docks. They weighed in a lovely 43.7-pound California halibut caught by Don Kobabe of Agoura that immediately went to the top of the leader board.

Second place came in late. With just a few minutes to spare, kayaker Tony Copos weighed in a sweet 17.7-pound halibut. Tony worked locally and caught a full limit of halibut and said he released more shorts. Fishing from a kayak in shallow waters is the hottest new trend in the angling community.

Some of the new “Save the Halibut” rules were quite effective. Two anglers took advantage of the 20-percent weight credit and released healthy fish at the docks with witnesses. Paul Thompson released a 6.6-pounder and Larry Silver let a 6.7-pounder go back to the water. Both fish swam away from the docks to keep growing and helping the local Santa Monica Bay populations.

The officials weighed in plenty of rockfish and some bass. Eventually a big bag of rockfish went high on the scales to earn Shawn Bevin a spot on the leaderboard for third place. His total bag was 16.7 pounds, a tasty stringer of fish.

The expanded variety of species weighed in increased the excitement, as more anglers felt they had a chance to get in on the action. The winners received prizes and trophies and each angler that weighed in a fish got a souvenir photo of their catch with Miss Halibut. The photos will be posted on the Marina Del Rey Anglers web site.

The award ceremony and raffle was held at the foot of the Burton Chase Park Mariner statue. The event is an annual tradition that starts many anglers off to a new season full of fun fishing!

Marina del Rey Anglers is a nonprofit fishing and conservation group. Proceeds from the MDR Halibut Derbies have traditionally funded the club’s well-known and respected MDRA Youth Fishing Program, its White Seabass Grow-out Pens in Marina Del Rey and various other critical marine environmental and conservation programs. Over the years MDRA has released nearly 100,000 white sea bass from its WSB grow-out pens. MDRA welcomes new members and all donations. For more information visit www.mdranglers.com and look for derby photos and results. You can also find more info about the derby at www.HalibutDerby.com.

Photo Credit: Gisele Rebeiro for MDR Anglers