Eager anglers are gearing up for one of the first fishing opportunities of the year with the 20th annual Winter King Salmon Tournament, a one-day contest on March 23 that pits the hardiest of fishermen against the elements, and their peers. Last year’s winner, Anchor Point local Emmitt Trimble, caught a 34-plus-pounder and top prize of $9,954, as well as bragging rights for an entire year. It’s the eighth-largest king to win the tournament – the largest to take first place, in 2002, weighed in at 41.82 pounds.
Ron Hurley of Homer has been fishing the tournament since 1999, and said it is the highlight of his year.
“It’s like the first real positive reason to go fishing for the new year,” Hurley said. “Those of us that keep our boats operational do it really because we just love it.”
The tournament can also offer a handsome payday, he added.
“There are some huge prizes involved,” he added. “If we have an 800-person turnout, there’s $80,000 just in tournament entry fees. Then they have the Calcutta side-bet board, and that’s where the big money comes in. If you’re feeling really lucky and you have deep pockets, if you ended up winning the tournament, your boat could walk away with $40,000 or more.”
In 2011, tournament winner Mike Walls caught a 30-pound king that netted him the grand prize and Calcutta side bets, totaling $30,205 at the end of the day.
“You can have a second- or third-place king and still win more money than the winner if you make the Calcutta side bets and they don’t,” Hurley explained.
The Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament is a major fundraiser for the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. It takes a percentage of the entry fees, using the rest to split among tournament winners. New this year is a prize for the largest white king salmon to be caught.
Another treat of the daylong tournament is the prize giveaways, which are announced every 15 minutes or so on the local VHS station (Channel 69). All registered tournament-goers are entered, and boat passengers listen in to see if their names are called for prizes as small as fishing tackle to as valuable as plane tickets.
Last year’s event attracted 132 boats and 473 anglers, although the average tournament attracts much more participation than 2012 did. Most years, the event draws an average of 900 anglers. One of the challenges, Hurley said, is finding a charter boat operator who has space aboard their vessel. The boats fill up fast.
“I have fishermen that fish the boat every year,” Hurley said of his own boat, the Sweet T. “They told me they want the boat until hell freezes over.”
Still, Hurley said, call the Homer Chamber to find out about any cancellations or openings. Or, better yet, convince your friends or family to de-mothball their winterized boats and drive down to Homer for a weekend of fun.
“We encourage people from all over the state — anybody’s that wanting to come down and fish,” Hurley said. “The largest percentage of fishermen (in the tournament) are private anyway. I don’t personally know anybody that’s pulled a boat out of Fairbanks, but they do come from all over.”
Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament
9 a.m.-4 p.m. March 23 in Homer. For more information, contact the Homer Chamber of Commerce at (907) 235-7740, or visit www.homeralaska.org.
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