Sunday, it begins: the 26th annual Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce.
For the fourth year, Paula Frisinger is at the helm, coordinating the event that continues until 9 p.m. Sept. 30.
Whether fishermen pay $10 for a one-day chance to hook into a monstrous, barndoor halibut worthy of the grand prize -- $2 of each ticket goes toward the jackpot -- or $75 for a 10-day ticket, Frisinger's message is the same.
"Don't forget to buy your derby ticket," she said, recalling past years when non-ticket holders landed prize-worthy fish.
It isn't just big fish that win prizes.
"Small fish win big, too," said Frisinger. "Lots of tagged fish are out there worth a lot of money and, of course, we would love to see more people take advantage of the 'Released Fish' prize, a $1,000 random drawing each month for releasing a 50-pound plus fish and the odds are really outstanding."
Chamber members earlier this year reeled in halibut on which they attached business-sponsored tags. Lucky fishermen hooking into these decorated flatfish could win $500, $1,000 or even $10,000. If caught, the tag must be left in place and the entire fish with the tag must be brought the day it is caught to derby headquarters on the Spit.
The "Released Fish" prize tips its hat to anglers choosing to return to the sea a fish of breeding potential no smaller than 50 pounds. The bigger the fish, the bigger the potential. These catch-and-release fishermen qualify for a $1,000 cash drawing at the end of each month in which the fish was caught and released and a season-long drawing for a $5,000 prize.
A "Lady Angler" prize of $500 is awarded each month. Prizes from $100-$500 for fishermen 12 years old and younger are awarded at the end of the season. There also are prizes for catching a "lefty," a halibut with eyes on its left side, and captains get in the money if a fish caught on their boat is a prize-winner.
Jamie Olvera of Fairbanks won the 2010 derby with a 277.6-pound halibut she caught while fishing with Capt. Ben Martin on North Country Halibut Charters' vessel, "Fringe Benefit." Olvera's catch netted a prize of $40,610.
Leading the long list of sponsors for this year's derby are Redden Marine, known locally as Kachemak Gear Shed, and McDonald's of Homer.
"They sponsor the derby tickets and there are coupons on the tickets only redeemable at the Gear Shed and McDonald's," said Frisinger.
A limited-entry program for halibut charter operators that National Marine Fisheries Service put into effect Feb. 1 has caused a decrease in the number of charters operating this year.
"There have been some charters and captains that will not be fishing this year and of course it will have an impact. (We're) just not sure what kind of impact for seat availability that will have an impact on tickets sold," said Frisinger. "We sure will miss them and seeing them at the weigh station."
Derby tickets can be purchased at the Homer Visitor Center and at the Derby Headquarters and weigh station on the Spit, which opens daily at 5:30 a.m. from May 15-Labor Day. A lengthy list of local businesses also selling tickets is available on the derby's web site.
"Just remember, having fun and being safe are the most important when fishing, but having a chance to win in the derby also would be an adventure of a lifetime," said Frisinger. "So, we will see you at the weigh station."
For more information on the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby visit www.homerhalibutderby.com.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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