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34th Annual – April 5 & 6, 2008
1st Place – Dominic Gonzalez – 37.3 lbs – California Halibut
2nd Place – Ruben Valdez – 35.8 lbs – California Halibut
3rd Place – Mark Pierpont – 35.6 lbs – California Halibut
4th Place – Tom Brooks – 28 lbs – California Halibut
5th Place – Mike Eckardt – 25.6 lbs – California Halibut
34th Annual MDR Halibut Derby an Outstanding Success
The 34th Annual Marina Del Rey Halibut Derby held April 5th and 6th was an outstanding success. Five hundred thirty anglers competed for $60,000 in cash and prizes including a shot at a brand new Toyota Tundra Truck and exotic fishing trips to Mexico and Alaska.
Halibut Derby anglers enjoyed slightly overcast skies and slightly bumpy water but there was certainly great excitement about finding and catching the trophy, prize winning halibut. The fish had a completely different program and tried their hardest to hide and fast during the weekend. High gasoline prices, an uncertain economy, concern of spring time rains and all the negative press about MLPA’s may have kept some anglers away, but the ones who did compete were as enthusiastic and joyous as ever. Only 17 halibut were weighed in and many more fish were released due to the conservation mindset of so many anglers or they did not meet the 26” derby minimum or the 22” DFG minimum legal size. The number of undersized fish caught is great news for the continued healthy stock of halibut in Santa Monica Bay. Most important was the feeling of camaraderie and excitement of anglers and marine conservationists who love the ocean, participating in their common passion and knowledge that they are helping thousands of at-risk kids and promoting marine restoration projects critical to all of us.
Several nice halibut were brought to the scales Saturday afternoon. Proud anglers posed for pictures and gave telephone interviews to 976TUNA.com and SportfishingReport.com. The leader board was filling with big halibut and the leaders were hoping their big fish would maintain their position, while others were hoping Sunday would bring them good luck and the tournament winning giant halibut.
A party atmosphere prevailed in the Marina Del Rey launch area parking lot Saturday night as derby revelers and campers tail gated and shared stories of the fish landed and the monsters that got away. The leader board at the end of Saturday was very impressive, with Dominic Gonzalez on top with a 37.3 pound halibut. Just barely behind, Kayaker Mark Pierpont, riding his company’s Wilderness Systems Kayak, brought a 37 pound class halibut to challenge the first place spot just after the weigh-in station had been closed and dismantled. This meant the official weight of Mark’s fish would be determined on Sunday causing much speculation for all and an anxious sleep for at least two tough competitors. Tom Brooks weighed in a 28 pound beauty and his team mate, Mike Eckardt caught a nice 25.6 pound fish putting them 3rd and 4th on the leader board and number one so far in the cash rich team jackpot competition. Derek Gray rounded out the day one leader board with his 12 pound flattie.
You could slice the tension with a knife on Sunday afternoon as more big fish were brought to the weigh in scales and rumors of a 54 pound Toyota Truck winning halibut created an electric atmosphere and people scanning the horizon to see the huge fish. Every time a big fish came to the tables there were cheers from the crowd and high fives all around. Every second toward the 3:00 PM deadline for final weigh-in the excitement increased. The then current leader was on his knees praying, as were family members of anglers still on the water to hurry in time for the final weigh-in. All eyes were on the leader board and the last boats arriving to weigh their fish for the grand prize, top honors and a full year of bragging rights.
Dominic Gonzalez prevailed from wire to wire and captured 1st place with his 37.3 pound giant halibut. Dominic wins a fishing vacation for two people to Baja California’s East Cape, the Rooster Fish capital of the world, including seven days and six nights at the exotic Hotel Punta Colorada , all meals, 3 days of fishing, freezing and packing the catch, plus a check for $1,000 to help pay for air fare between LAX and Los Cabos and transfers between the airport and hotel. Gonzales also won the 1st place jack pot and took home another check for $2,625. Congratulations Dominic!!!!!!!!!
There were lots of winners and a mountain of prizes presented at the awards party which followed a well deserved and tasty barbeque feast. Of course, the biggest winners will be the thousand kids from at risk environments who will be hosted by Marina Del Rey Anglers’ Youth Fishing Program aboard the Betty-O out of Marina Del Rey. Proceeds from the event go to support not only the Marina Del Rey Anglers’ Youth Fishing Program but also its Ocean Resources Enhancement Program which has raised and released 105,000 juvenile white seabass into Santa Monica Bay since its founding in 1994. These fish were nearly extinct just 20 years ago and efforts to restore the fishery have been extremely successful with trophy white seabass exceeding 30 pounds being routinely caught off our local beaches and at local islands.
Congratulations also go out to all the other big winners:
2nd Place: Ruben Valdez with a 35.8 pound halibut wins a fishing trip for 5 days and 4 nights for two people at the luxurious Inn at Mazatlan, including 2 days of fishing with Heimpel’s Star Fleet, plus a check for $1,700 to help pay for meals and air fare between LAX and Mazatlan.
3rd Place: Mark Pierpont with a 35.6 pound halibut wins a 5 day/4 night fishing vacation for 2 people to the deluxe El Cid Hotel in Mazatlan, including 2 days of fishing with Aries Fleet, plus a $1,500 check to help pay for meals and airfare between LAX and Mazatlan.
4th Place: Tom Brooks with a 28.0 pound halibut won a 5 day and 4 night fishing vacation for 2 people at the beautiful Las Flores Hotel in Mazatlan, including 2 days of fishing with Heimpel’s Star Fleet, plus a check for $1,500 to help pay for meals and air fare between LAX and Mazatlan.
5th Place: Mike Eckardt with a 25.6 pound halibut wins a 5 day/ 4 night vacation for 2 people at the San Nicolas Hotel in Ensenada including 3 days of fishing with Sergio’s Sportfishing and an allowance for meals and highway tolls.
The derby also presented quality rods and reels to the top 6th – 15th places donated by West Marine, Shimano, Avet and Seeker and other generous sponsors.
The 2nd and 3rd place fish could have easily been in a different order. Kayaker Mark Pierpont caught his fish on Saturday but came in too late to weigh it. His fish likely lost at least 0.2 pounds overnight, but “rules are rules” and Mark seemed to take it in stride.
Congratulations kayakers!!! The Kayak anglers proved the effectiveness of their plastic navy and the special skills. The top kayak angler was Mark Pierpont for his 35.6 pound halibut. Paul Quirk, AKA Pablo Joe, placed 2nd for his 9.1 pound halibut. Mark picked up an additional $151 check for top honors and Paul collected $95 plus they both received a high quality rod and reel outfit. Two kayakers placed in the top 15 places for the first time in the 34 years of this MDR Halibut Derby. The kayakers proved anybody can enter the MDR Halibut Derby, receive big prizes, cash and a year of bragging rights. Kayaks are an inexpensive and extremely effective way to begin your private boating and tournament fishing career. Thanks to Wilderness Systems for providing the kayak for the First Prize in the Youth Division and 2nd place winner Pablo Joe for donating a guided kayaking trip as a raffle prize.
The jackpots produced some big money winners. Dominic Gonzalez walked off with another big check of $2,625 for the 1st place jack pot. Ruben Valdez received $1,575 for his 2nd place jack pot position. Kayaker Mark Pierpont, who had already collected a big fishing trip to Mexico and a $1,500 check for 3rd prize in the general competition and $151 for the 1st place kayak jackpot, picked up another big check for $1,050 for placing 3rd in the general jack pot.
Unfortunately there were no halibut caught in the ladies or youth divisions and the high performance kayak donated generously by Wilderness Systems was unawarded to a youth.
The Team Jackpot also had fierce competition for big bucks for the three teams scoring the most points. Tom Brooks, Mike Eckardt and Alma Cadero earned $1,867 for their 1st place team jack pot. The Zamora brothers, Miguel and Ed picked up $1,120 for 2nd place and Dominic Gonzalez and Michael Thompson walked away with 3rd place in the team competition and pocketed $747.
The big 50 pound halibut got away this year and we were not able to award the new Toyota Tundra Truck from Marina del Rey Toyota, however they are still offering any Halibut Derby contestant with proof of registration, a special fleet price on any new Toyota through June 30, 2008. Be sure to visit the Fleet Manager. Dominic’s winning halibut barely missed the 40 pound mark to win the bonus prize to Sitka Point Lodge so this prize will roll over to next year.
Congratulations to all participants and to the many dedicated volunteers from MDR Anglers, Hubbs Seaworld and the California DFG for a great event. MDRA President Ken Raymond noted the incredible support and generosity of all of the sponsors who make this event possible. Derby Chairman Stan Zisser wants to remind all participants that our generous sponsors are in business to sell products, and the best and most appropriate way to show our appreciation is to copy the list of donors from your derby brochure or from www.hhalibutderby.com, and to use this as a guide when planning your Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthday and Christmas shopping.
The Marina Del Rey Halibut Derby is the oldest and largest fishing tournament on the West Coast of the United States. The Derby is operated by volunteers from the Marina Del Rey Anglers fishing club and from the community.