Ermagene Aalund of Fullerton, CA, leads the tournament with a 232.2-pound halibut that she landed June 15 aboard the M/V Orion with Aurora Charters. Captain Jon Lester has taken Aalund fishing for three consecutive years. He described Aalund as a dedicated fisherman and was not surprised to see her persistence land her at the top of the leaderboard. “Every time Ermagene comes out, she catches big fish.”
Second in the overall standings is Sarah Castle of St. Paul, MN with a 225.2-pounder. She landed her fish on June 15 aboard the M/V Pursuit with Captain Francisca Barnett of ProFish-n-Sea Charters. Barnett, known locally as “Captain T,” won the 2016 Seward Halibut Tournament on the last day of the event. This was her second halibut weighing more than 200 pounds in as many trips this season.
Moving into third place on June 20 was Brian Warmkessel of Coplay, PA. He went out with Aurora Charters on the M/V Aurora and brought in a 177-pound halibut.
At the top of the youth division is 13-year-old Hannah Hart of Lolo, MT, with her 143-pounder that she caught on June 13 with J-Dock Sportfishing aboard the M/V Predator. John Austin Gallardo of Anchorage continues to lead the military division with a 130-pound halibut that he landed early in the tournament on the M/V Nauti Girl with Inn & Out Charters.
Seward is one of Alaska’s top ports for commercial halibut landings, but the picturesque coastal community has earned a reputation as a sportfishing mecca for its access to a diverse range of iconic species from Chinook salmon and rockfish, both of which are showing up on the docks along with “barn door” halibut.
“The fishing has been great so far this year, and we expect it to remain strong through the end of the halibut tournament,” said Carl Hughes, owner of Aurora Charters. “In late June and early July, Seward has some of the best halibut fishing you’ll find in the state.”
The Seward Halibut Tournament®, now in its 11th year, is a popular fishing event for all types of anglers, not just those targeting Alaska’s trophy halibut.
“There’s no place else that offers the majestic beauty of Kenai Fjords National Park with world-class halibut fishing within a two-hour drive of Alaska’s biggest population center,” said Cindy Clock, executive director of the Seward Chamber of Commerce. “Many Alaskans visit Seward from Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley with their out-of-town family and friends. A halibut charter is a memorable experience for seasoned anglers and for those who just want to soak up our incredible scenery and wildlife while enjoying a day on the water.”
For seafood lovers, a halibut charter can be an economical way to stock up on the tasty, versatile fish that has been known to draw raves from even the pickiest eaters. It’s not uncommon to see halibut fillets retail for upwards of $25 per pound. “On many trips, the value of the halibut caught exceeds the cost of the charter,” said Clock.
Some of the Seward Halibut Tournament’s biggest prizes are still up for grabs. In recent years, the $5,000 prize for heaviest fish has been won in the final days of the tournament. This year’s tournament also includes 40 tagged fish, each worth a corresponding prize of at least $250. Only two tagged fish have been caught to date, leaving plenty of opportunities for anglers to catch a lucky halibut in the final week.
The 2017 Seward Halibut Tournament® is scheduled to run through 8 p.m. on June 30. Tournament entry tickets are $10 for one day or $25 for three days. For more information on the tournament and halibut fishing in Seward, visit halibut.seward.com.