Fairbanks resident reels in heaviest halibut of the Valdez Derby

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 7:44 PM AKDT
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For consecutive years, a Fairbanks resident has hauled in the heaviest halibut in the Valdez Fishing Derby. On August 16, 23-year old Mickia Cenker reeled in a 224.0-pound halibut, leapfrogging her to the top of the season leaderboard.

Just 15 minutes prior to the closing of derby ticket purchases for the day, Cenker awoke from an afternoon nap following a day of fishing, and rushed to grabbed a ticket. Time to hit the waters, Cenker and the Halibut Grove Charter launched into the Prince William Sound on what Cenker recalls a ‘mellow, calm’ day. The Captain of the charter suggested they go further from shore than the typical three hours, which may have won Cenker the coveted Valdez Halibut Derby crown.

“So we went about four, four and half hours out and as soon as we started catching, we didn’t stop catching for two hours,” Cenker said.

In the midst of the commotion, Cenker was on her way to reeling in yet another halibut, as they’ve had success doing all day.

“I said [to the Captain], ‘I think I got a pretty good fish on the line’ and he said, ‘okay, just keep reeling, I’ll will be back.’

So, she kept reeling.

“It got like 20 feet from the surface and then Jason, the Captain, was like ‘stop reeling right now, you have a huge fish on the end of your line.' Then I looked down and realized the magnitude of what I caught. It was huge, it didn’t even fit in the cooler." she said.

The cherry on top to an already bountiful day of fishing, Cenker still wasn’t convinced that she was in the running for the heaviest halibut of the Derby.

“I could tell that he [the Captain] was ecstatic and I don’t think I realized the magnitude of what I caught until I got back to the dock and everyone was like, ‘that’s a huge fish’ and I was like, ‘really?’ I guess I thought people caught fish like that all the time." she said with a laugh.

Cenker caught her slab of halibut towards the end of the season, with the Derby closing on September 6. Her 224.0-pounder outweighed Jim Rothenbuhler of Salcha (201.2 lb.) and Kenny Tussey of North Pole (193.4 lb.), who were second and third in the standings respectively.

Last year, Christine Ives, another Fairbanks resident, reeled in a 285.6 lb. halibut, good enough for the top spot.

Now that the hardest part is over for Cenker, getting the halibut out of the water, all that was left was the easy part.

“I’ve ate it and it is delicious," she said. "I have definitely been very generous with it because there is so much.

“Not a lot of people catch huge fish like that all the time, so I am really thankful I got that experience in my lifetime, given that not everyone gets it anymore.” Cenker added.

Cenker takes home the grand prize of $5,000 cash and a freezer full of fish.

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