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By Zach Cavanagh

Brian Dancer is the 2019 Halibut Derby winner with his 26-pound, 10-ounce catch on Feb. 24. Photo: Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching

After five months casting and catching, the Halibut Derby at Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching has a champion.

Brian Dancer of Valencia is the winner of the 2019 Halibut Derby and the $1,500 top prize. Dancer’s 26-pound, 10-ounce catch on Feb. 24 stood up over the last month of the competition.

Dancer took first from Cher Owens, whose 25-pound, 10-ounce halibut from the competition’s first weekend on Nov. 2 posted her on top of the leaderboard for nearly four full months.

Owens took $750 for second place. JB Delvert’s catch of 23 pounds, 9 ounces came in third place for $500. Robert Prei’s 22-pound, 14-ounce haul took fourth place and $250. Tony Garrido claimed the last money spot with a 22-pound, 7-ounce catch for fifth place and $100.

The top 25 anglers on the Halibut Derby leaderboard will now compete in a fish-off drift trip on Sunday, April 7. The top angler on the trip will take home a $500 prize.

Fishing was great outside of the derby, as well, with good weather producing prime conditions.

In his weekly report, Captain Brian Woolley said the current in the deep-water zone helped where the fleet had been catching rockfish. Trips saw plenty of vermilion rockfish and grouper but also ran into some red crab that made bottom-fishing tricky.

On the half-day trips, the majority of the kelp is gone, so Woolley said boats were able to get to some spots they hadn’t been able to reach previously, resulting in strong sheephead hauls.

Over at San Clemente Island, the Fury saw some nice rockfish of its own, with the addition of whitefish and sheephead.

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Here are the latest fish counts out of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching:

April 3 – 2 boats, 68 anglers: 166 vermilion rockfish, 70 rockfish, 34 sculpin, 16 whitefish, 14 boccacio, 2 sand bass, 1 calico bass, 18 bass released.

April 2 – 3 boats, 142 anglers: 2 calico bass, 14 sand bass, 29 sculpin, 6 sheephead, 14 whitefish, 80 rockfish, 97 vermilion rockfish, 18 bocaccio, 29 bass released

April 1 – 3 boats, 94 anglers: 1 sand bass, 107 sculpin, 5 sheephead, 14 whitefish, 21 rockfish, 36 vermilion rockfish, 52 bocaccio, 11 bass released.

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