The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Halibut fall to military action


Daniel Thomas landed a 86.6-pound halibut aboard the Alaskan Summer captained by bearded Phil Ullrich in the YMCA Combat Fishing Tournament.

The Seward Volunteer Fire Department was the first thing that U.S. military service members from Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson were likely to notice when arriving in Seward last May 22 for the eighth annual Armed Services YMCA Combat Fishing Tournament. For many of the junior enlisted military men and women it was their first glimpse of Seward, as they drove between columns of parked SFD vehicles with firefighters saluting at attention.

The trip began in Anchorage around 3 a.m., when they boarded two motor coaches bound for Seward. For many, it would be also their first fishing experience in Alaska. The convoy drove the Seward Highway flanked by anonymous black sedans who, just shy of Nash Road, hit their lights and revealed themselves as Alaska State Troopers. Gliding into Seward Small Boat Harbor just before 5 a.m., nearly 200 junior enlisted military personnel disembarked for coffee, donuts and roll call for the 14 different charter boats that had volunteered their services to the men and women of the armed services.

Sewardites Mike Calhoon, Marilyn Sutherland and Scott Bartlett greeted the arrivals with passenger checklists as USCG Auxiliary Sue Lang member bustled around the Silver Salmon Derby booth, lining up lunch coolers for the anglers. By 6 a.m. most of the soldiers were matched up with their charter boats, completed their orientations and departed the harbor to enjoy a sunny day of fishing on the waters of Resurrection Bay.

About nine hours later, at 3 p.m., the first handful of boats had returned and weighed in their catches. Four boats were back including the Alaskan Summer with what would be the record setting halibut landing for the tournament. As the returned crews and anglers weighed out their hauls and posed for pictures, KFQD's Dave Stieren provided live radio coverage from the relative safety of the derby booth.

Near the end of their day-long Seward adventure, the soldiers were hosted by the Alaska Railroad and Seward's American Legion Post No. 5 at a banquet and awards ceremony in the Dale Lindsey Cruise Ship Terminal. Post members dished out a tasty barbecued chicken dinner as Hobo Jim entertained the crowd with songs and stories. Bob Lester and Mark Colavecchio, morning show hosts for an Anchorage rock and roll radio station, served as masters of ceremony.

The awards ceremony began in earnest at 6:30 p.m. after the invocation by Lt. Col. Dick Tero United States Air Force, Retired. A group photo of the charter captains and crews led into the Seward Cup handoff by Captain Phil Ullrich to himself. Ullrich, of the Alaskan Summer, has bagged first place among charter captains at the tournament for three years running. He also played host to the next big trophy winner, angler Daniel Thomas, who caught the 86.6-pound halibut that tipped the scales as the tournament's largest.

Trophies also went out to Richard Kloster of the Legacy for a 75.8-pound halibut, Alex Moommala of the Rainisong for a 60.2-pound halibut, Spencer Shireman of the Legend for a 56.2-pound halibut and Benjamin Williams of the Alaskan Summer with the fifth place halibut at 55.8 pounds. Trophies and accompanying prizes were also given to Jacob Kindred of the Legend for the smallest fish at 2.8 pounds and to Brandon Bell aboard the Interceptor for being the sickest fisherman.

Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Charter boat Top Cover prepares for an early a.m. departure behind the Snow Bird and Rainisong.

Elle Zernia of Captains Jack's Seafood was presented with a plaque for processing and delivering over 17,000 pounds of fish for the yearly tournament. According to organizer Keith Manternach, 1,650 junior enlisted military on more than 190 charter trips contributed to that total over the eight years of the event.

Founding organizer Bob Candopoulous also noted that, with the support and donations from individuals, groups and businesses around Southcentral Alaska, the tournament has given out over $205,000 in prize money and over $250,000 in door prizes. The event was founded to show appreciation to members of all branches of the armed services with a special focus on the junior enlisted ranks. It combines the efforts of volunteers, supporters and organizers with the participation of donors, the Seward fishing charter fleet and the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska.


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