Anglers return to the Homer Spit Saturday, after spending a sunny, calm day on Kachemak Bay.
Photo by Ben Stuart, Homer News
Keith Kline : an employee at Agrium's soon-to-be-closed Kenai fertilizer plant : caught a 35.32-pound salmon, and $21,819 worth of much-needed unemployment insurance Saturday, during the 12th annual Winter King Salmon Tournament in Homer.
Saturday's trip was only the second time Kline had ever trolled for winter kings.
"They fight really hard in salt water," Kline said. "It hit and just about spooled me, took a lot of line out."
Kline might be a neophyte to winter king trolling, but not to catching big fish, he said.
He also guides for monster kings on the Kenai River and one of the 20-plus pound rainbows he has caught over the years is on display at the Soldotna Visitors Center.
Still, at more than $600 a pound, Saturday's tournament-winning king might be worth more than the rest for Kline, who likely will lose his job if and when the Agrium plant closes down.
Kline hauled in the biggest fish of the day aboard the M/V Vixen, which belongs to Kline's father, Bernie.
The winning boat also netted $11,962 for Bernie in boat side bets.
"It makes my dad very happy," Kline said.
After calling the guide service he works for and giving his dad a big hug, Kline said he already knew where the money was going.
"I'm going to pay off my truck so I don't have any payments when Agrium closes," he said.
Sunny weather and light winds drew a record 1,039 anglers to the event this year, making Kline's jackpot the largest ever for the tournament.
Tournament organizer Linda Winters said she was excited with the turnout.
"It was fantastic, couldn't be better," she said.
The tournament grew by about 300 anglers from last year. Winters said if the weather is good next year she is hoping for the same.
Anchorage resident Garrett Maupin, last year's winner, said he fished in a different spot this year, but found similar results.
"I just missed it by two places," he said.
Kenai's Keith Kline holds up the 35.32-pound king salmon that won him the 12th annual Winter King Salmon Tournament in Homer.
Photo by Ben Stuart, Homer News
Maupin's 31.9-pound king caught aboard the M/V Mainlander netted him third place and $11,429 to go with the $15,561 he won last year.
Thomas Hills from Soldotna finished second with a 32.2-pounder and a check for $14,546.
Carol Whitney from Anchor Point finished fourth, and Jack Hendrickson from Fairbanks finished fifth.
Homer's top angler, Dave Olsen, caught a 27.7-pound king worth $5,195 and the sixth-place spot.
The top 10 earned a combined $77,925, while the 11th- through 20th-largest fish won merchandise worth more than $2,500.
A total of 317 winter kings were caught during the one-day tournament on 292 boats.
While some of the larger fish might be headed to Kenai Peninsula streams to spawn this summer, most of the fish in Kachemak Bay now are feeder kings from Canada.
During the awards ceremony, master of ceremonies Tim White started by thanking all the sponsors for the event, when someone from the crowd yelled, "We should thank Canada."
The outburst drew plenty of laughs and a spontaneous version of "O, Canada" erupted from the crowd.
Keith Kline laughed, too, as he waited for the biggest paycheck of his life.
12th annual Winter King Salmon Tournament
1. Keith Kline, Kenai, 35.32 pounds; 2. Thomas R. Hills, Soldotna, 32.2; 3. Garrett Maupin, Anchorage, 31.9; 4. Carol Whitney, Anchor Point, 28.7; 5. Jack Hendrickson, Fairbanks, 28.38; 6. Dave Olsen, Homer, 27.7; 7. Capt. Bob Baker, Anchor Point, 26.18; 8. Mike Staffan, Anchorage, 25.5; 9. Pam Fogg, Anchor Point, 25.42; 10. Billy Pepper, Homer, 25.22; 11. Mike Powell, Anchorage, 25.06; 12. Aaron Ulmer, Homer, 24.7; 13. Kelly Matthews, Homer, 24.66; 14. Dave Beck, Halibut Cove, 24.6; 15. Kevin Scheele, Anchorage, 24.5; 16. Pete Nelson, Shaw Island, Wash., 24.12; 17. Fred West, Soldotna, 23.8; 18. Joseph Ragsdale, Soldotna, 23.7; 19. Bernard House, Big Lake, 23.64; 20. Joel Tutt, Homer, 23.6.
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