By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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“Halibut and chips,” Spence said with a smile when asked his dinner plans after the derby.
Spence, who turns 37 Saturday, brought home an early birthday present in the form of an 81-pound barn door to take the $5,000 top prize.
“We were chumming a bit,” Spence said.
“I used a Shakespeare Sturdy Stik with 100-pound test rigged up with mackerel, and all the setup was from Jerry's Bait and Tackle.”
Spence hooked the barn door midmorning Sunday while anchored in 110 feet of water off of Green Point east of Port Angeles.
“When I got the bite, I felt a pretty good pull and thought I may have a pretty decent-sized fish here,” Spence said.
“The guys in the boat were getting more nervous than I was, I believe.”
Spence battled to bring the flattie up from the depths until it first appeared above the water line after 30 minutes.
“The first time it surfaced we saw how big it was and knew we were in for another healthy fight.”
Spence was out with his fishing buddies Joe Berson and Darrell Johnson, who aided him in landing the big winner.
“Then we got a harpoon in him and the fight kind of dwindled away after that,” Spence said.
The trio boated back to the Port Angeles Boat Haven's West Dock to be weighed at 11:07 a.m. Sunday.
Spence estimated it was his fifth Port Angeles Halibut derby and his first time finishing in the money in the top 30.
“From worst to first,” Spence joked.
He hasn't decided what he will do with the $5,000 first prize.
“My wife will probably make that decision,” Spence said.
It wasn't the largest halibut the angler has ever landed, that honor going to an 86-pounder.
Saturday's leader Randi Owens of Sequim ended up in second place, earning $2,500 for her 61-pound halibut.
Owens was planning on being practical with her winnings.
“Probably a new set of tires for my truck,” Owens said.
Jerry Grose of Port Orchard was fourth, weighing in with a 59-pound fish at 1:38 p.m. Sunday.
Wayne Opdyke of Port Angeles finished fourth, netting 58-pound halibut and weighing in at 12:07 p.m. Sunday.
The 14th annual derby gave out $20,000 to the top 30 halibut caught by ticket holders within the U.S. waters from Low Point to the base of Dungeness Spit.
There were 564 total entries for this year's derby.
Last year's winning halibut was a little bit bigger than Spence's 81-pounder.
Robert Beauvais of Joyce won the 2013 derby in only his second try at a fishing derby by catching a 96-pound monster flattie.
Other top-10 anglers for the 2014 event were: Jon Martin of Port Angeles, fifth place at 57 pounds for $1,100; Cynthia Beltrami of Port Angeles, sixth place at 53 pounds for $1,000; Cory Hilzer of Kent, seventh place at 52 pounds for $800; David Heath of Sumner, eighth place 51 pounds for $700; Garret Delabarre of Port Angeles, ninth place at 51 pounds for $600; and Spencer Constant of Port Angeles, 10th place for $500.
Last year's top 10 averaged a 76.6 pounds per halibut, while the average take was down nearly 20 pounds this year to 57.2 pounds.
Five of the six biggest fish were caught Sunday, the derby's final day.
See the full leader board on Page B2.