FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) In early June, Fairbanks resident Christina Ives and her friends decided to go on a spontaneous trip to Valdez. They found a last minute charter, and after debating for a few minutes, Ives ultimately decided to purchase a Valdez Fishing Derby ticket.
After hours on the water, she wasn't having much luck.
"I was the last one to even catch a fish, so everyone else was catching fish all day," Ives said. "I was still excited and was still happy for them, I was just happy to be there."
But, her luck started to change, as she finally got a bite on her line. The size of what was on the end didn't matter too much, as she was just happy to be on the board and catch at least one fish.
"Finally we saw the line hit and it was my turn and I started reeling, and I didn't know how to judge how big of a fish it was...the captain knew, and once he said, 'oh this is a big fish' I was like, alright, game on, let's go."
They knew it was something hefty on the other side, but wasn't quite sure what or how large it actually was.
"It took about an hour and a half, and it was tiring...super, super tiring. It took three of us to reel it in, taking turns, everything like that," Ives recalled. "Once I started reeling I was like, 'oh my god, I caught a whale. Like, this is massive.'"
It wasn't a whale, but a 285.6 lb. halibut. The haul reeled in by Ives and the crew on June 6 was the largest halibut caught in the 2019 Valdez Fishing Derby.
"There was lots of yelling and high-fives and hugs and everything like that," Ives said of the aftermath. "It was just a relief that we finally got it into the boat, because the whole time we were like 'hopefully we won't lose the fish, hopefully the line won't break.' When we got it in the boat the hook barely even had it, so we were like,' how long were we fighting this fish with barely anything?'"
It was early in the Halibut Derby, which runs from May 18 through September 1. Ives wasn't quite sure if her halibut would hold up all summer as the top fish.
"I was pretty nervous, but I looked back on the past couple of years and I saw that it was pretty much even with a lot of the fish that one the Derbies before. I felt like I had a chance but of course I was still nervous."
To add to the nerves, Ives was out of cellular service when the Derby closed on September 1, having to wait even longer to find out if she still had the number one haul of the summer.
"I kind of assumed that I won, but I didn't want to think I did. Once I got to an airport and got cell phone service, I checked my voicemail and the woman from the Halibut Derby called me and I was just ecstatic, I was so happy."
Ives' name is forever etched in the Valdez Halibut Derby record books. Not only does she take home a freezer full of fish, Ives collects the $10,000 grand prize and bragging rights for the entire year.
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