By Sheryl Nix, Fort Wainwright PAOOctober 21, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Alaskan fishing trips are typically full of big adventure, beautiful scenery and big hauls, but for one Fort Wainwright couple, a recent fishing trip to Homer also netted a huge pay day.
The trip was supposed to be a fun, relaxing way to welcome her husband home from his recent deployment to Iraq. But for Jamie Olvera, National Guard Soldier with 297th Military Policy Company out of Wasilla, and wife of Staff Sgt. John Olvera, 472nd Military Police Company, it was more hard work and less rest and relaxation than she intended.
"We drove for 14 hours; got to Homer; went to sleep; got up and went on the trip," Jamie Olvera said. "The boat ride was horrible. The waves were crazy."
The experience did not get any easier even after she caught a monster halibut that turned out to be the largest fish of the season.
It took her 45 minutes to reel in the prize-winning fish. "It was basically dead weight. It was just ridiculous," she said. "I didn't get to see it when it came up on the boat because I was holding the rod all the way back at the other end of the boat."
To win Homer's Jackpot Halibut Derby, Jamie Olvera caught and hauled in a 277.6-pound halibut, making her only the third woman to ever win and at 25, the youngest winner in the competition's 25-year history.
"When we went in and weighed in, I knew I had the largest," she said. "I outweighed the other guy's fish by four pounds. I'm sure he was pretty upset about it."
The Pennsylvania native's hard work paid off in a big way. "The jackpot was $40,610," she said. "They took the taxes out and it ended up being $29,500 after taxes."
John Olvera said he did not catch anything close to the size of his wife's fish, but his favorite part of the trip was supporting her and seeing her tackle such a huge feat. "I was coaching her along through it," he said. "It was kind of wearing her down a little bit, but she wouldn't give it up, she (told me) 'I got this. I got this.'"
The Olvera family has big plans for their winnings. They are paying off a loan on their vehicle and will still have $5,000 left. They donated almost 50 pounds of halibut to the Fairbanks Community Food bank Bank and have also given some to friends. Both of their parents want some of the prize-winning white fish and the Olveras will be eating halibut all winter. "We have almost half of a deep freezer full of fish left," Jamie Olvera said.
Not bad for a weekend's work; , especially considering the couple originally planned to go to Valdez and ended up in Homer only when they learned the Valdez charters were booked, she said. Another wrinkle in the couple's fairy tale fish story is that they were not even fishing for halibut when she caught her money fish. "I was supposed to be jigging for cod and I snagged the halibut," she said.
The moral of her story is that this sport is not just for seasoned men and women of the sea. This was her first time fishing in Alaska. "You never know. You've got to go do it."
But be forewarned. Winning in this sport can be addictive. The couple plans to try again next year.
"Yep. Same time. Same date. Back to Homer. Aug. 28, I'll be there," she said.