With all of the warm weather assaulting the winter months this fishing season, anglers can't help but wonder how soon it will be before they can get their lines wet on open water.
Wait no more.
The eighth annual Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament, Alaska's largest winter fishing derby, will take place March 24 in Homer.
"I've fished it every year, I wouldn't miss it," said Scott Ulmer, the owner of Ulmer's Drug and Hardware in Homer and the chairman of the tournament committee. "Everyone gets anxious to get some fresh fish and to wet a line, and this opens an opportunity to do just that."
The tournament, which is expecting to pay out in excess of $40,000 in cash prizes and more than $10,000 in merchandise giveaways, handed out $10,362 last year to Homer's Guy Carlson, who pulled in 2000's winning catch, which weighed in at 30.34 pounds.
"If you look at what we gave away last year, $36,000 in cash and $8,000 in prizes, just raise the number of anglers and we will be giving out the expected amounts," said Derotha Ferraro, the executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce. "It is one of those ideal events that a chamber can sponsor. It creates economic development during a slow time in the community, it promotes a fishery and is a tremendous fund-raiser for this organization."
In 2000's tournament, 471 anglers on 136 boats participated in the saltwater trolling for feeder king salmon, which can be caught in Kachemak Bay year round. Both Ulmer and Ferraro agreed that there is a record turnout expected for this year's tournament.
"I fish year round and have seen a lot more activity here than I have in the past years," Ulmer said. "People are taking advantage of warmer winter weather and we are hoping all of that leads to more participants in the tournament this year."
The cost to participate in the tournament is $100, 80 percent of which goes toward cash prizes, while the remainder is used to cover costs and as a fund-raiser for the chamber.
A new addition to this year's tournament is a Boat Side Bet division, which allows friendly competition between boats as well as between the individual anglers, with $100, $250 and $500 categories for people to enter.
There will be cash prizes for the top 10 fish, and merchandise prizes will be awarded for next 10 biggest fish. An angler doesn't have to pull in the big one to win though, random drawings for prize giveaways will be announced every 15 minutes over on-board radios.
"It is one of the funnest days of fishing that I have each year with all of my friends from all over the state," Ulmer said. "People who are regulars come down year after year, and anyone just wanting to get some good fishing in should come out as well."
Anyone interested in participating in the king salmon derby can sign up at the Homer Chamber of Commerce until 6 p.m. March 23 or can obtain a registration form at tackle shops throughout the peninsula. Day-of registration will begin at 6 a.m. at Coal Point Trading in Homer.
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