Wednesday marked the beginning of the 2002 Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby. With $174,000 in prize money up for grabs, the Homer Chamber of Commerce, organizer and primary sponsor of the event, hopes to improve on the more than 16,000 tickets sold last year.
"We're hoping for at least 17,000 this year," said chamber spokesperson Linda Winters.
In it's 17th year, the derby is the largest of its kind in the state and will run from Wednesday until Labor Day. Winters said it was designed to generate business in the Homer area.
"It helps bring fishermen to Homer," she said. "It's the major fund-raiser for the chamber, which supports all sorts of activities. We are, in turn, helping the businesses in Homer."
And the variety of cash prizes, she said, should be a huge draw. There will be a $10,000 prize for released fish. This prize, sponsored by several Homer businesses, will be drawn from a pool of fishers who catch and release halibut weighing more than 80 pounds. Charter captains will have witness forms to sign, verifying the catch, and the the angler's name will go into the pool to be drawn at the end of the derby.
The prize for the biggest fish of the season will be taken from the derby ticket sales. Ticket prices were raised to $10 this year, with $3 to go toward the grand total dollar amount for the largest catch of the derby. Last year's winning fish, weighing more than 320 pounds, was worth $33,514 to Tom Barkman of Homer.
Winters said the more tickets sold this year, the greater the jackpot.
"If we sell those 17,000 tickets, it will be $51,000," she said. "It's one more incentive to fish here."
First- through fifth-place prizes from $125 to $1,000 will be awarded to the biggest fish caught each month.
There are also more than 100 halibut that were caught and tagged last week by volunteers and charter crews working with the chamber, with four $10,000 fish for each month of the derby, and catches worth $5,000, $1,000 or $500.
And prize seekers don't even have to fish to win. Just purchasing a ticket enters one into a $2,000 cash drawing in September.
But Winters said purchasing a ticket is a must for anglers hoping to cash in on big money.
"Numerous people have come in and caught a fish bigger than the biggest fish," she said. "There's five different ways to win, and you never know when you're going to pull in the big one."
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