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by Klondike Kid

AOJ Fishing
Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament gold rush.



I'm quite sure a number of Alaskans, by this time, have at least heard of the Homer Chamber of Commerce's Winter King Salmon Tournament. And as that day approaches often the conversation around the water cooler is whether the harbor is froze over, what condition the launching ramps are in, and how bad (or good) is the weather going to be for this annual March event. Conditions at this time of year can change quickly from one day to the next. So safety concerns for the anglers and boats is always the foremost priority and in a few past years has required postponing the start until Sunday for safer boating conditions. Such is Alaska and its just something we all learn to accept and roll with the punches.

Alaska's winter weather is always difficult to forecast more than a few days at a time because we are sitting literally in the birthplace, i.e. cradle, of new storms hitting North America. But this year, 2013, we have been blessed by an exceptionally warm winter that has kept the Homer boat harbor ice free and the launch ramps in perfect condition. Even the roads on the Kenai Peninsula are down to bare pavement most everywhere making for trailering a boat a piece of cake.

I'm not going to get into all the details of this tournament's rules and requirements. I'll provide you all the links you need to get those details on how to sign up and participate in this unique one day, seven hour competition that can change an angler's life by many tens of thousands of dollars with a single fish or even two. The objective of this article is to give you an idea of why, especially in this particular year, you should consider coming down for this fun and potentially lucrative experience. Please note, I have no connection to the Tournament, to Homer Chamber of Commerce, nor to any sponsors or supporters of this competition.


First of all the map below is the Tournament area and boundary lines. Any waters in Kachemak Bay or Cook Inlet inside these lines is fair game for fishing. This area is also designated as Two Kings per day waters, so each participating angler has a chance of entering two fish in the derby. Any legal fishing gear is allowed but only ONE rod per angler is allowed as per ADFG regulations.

Homer winter king salmon tournament area map.

There is no registration fee for the boat although the boat must be registered so that a Boat # can be issued Saturday morning before departure. Individual registration fees are $100 per angler. All individuals on a boat that is participating in the Tournament must be registered in the Tournament. The Boat Captain and a deck hand do not need to be registered in the Tournament UNLESS they are planning on fishing in the Tournament. All anglers must have completed a tournament entry form prior to fishing.

On Saturday morning the Tournament Headquarters opens at 7AM at Coal Point Trading on the Homer Spit. At this time boats may call the Headquarters on VHF #69 and request assignment of a Boat Number that is issued to every vessel departing the harbor. If you only have a Cell Phone you can call their phone number at 235-3877. You MUST get a number before heading out so that all boats can be accounted for at the end of the day.

Fishing time begins at 9:00AM Lines In and ends at 4:00PM Lines Out. Each boat must have a VHF radio or cell phone to notify Tournament HQ (VHF#69 or 235-3877) immediately upon landing a king salmon. It is very beneficial to have a VHF radio on board so you can also keep up with who is winning the Bell Ringer prizes being awarded.

Ship's Bell Ringer Prizes: All day long Headquarters will be randomly drawing angler names to win donated merchandise and prizes and announcing them over the VHF radio #69. Depending on the number of prizes available announcements are made every 15 minutes or more frequently. Prizes are typically worth $50 or more. So whether you catch a fish or not, you have an opportunity to be a winner. But wait, there is much more potential to win than that.

Let's talk MONEY FISH potential. The Tournament is set up to pay back 75% of all angler entrant fees to the TOP TEN Biggest King Salmon weighed in. Typically in a "normal winter" year there are close to 300 boats and 900 anglers entering. But this year is exceptional. WARM WARM WARM. Clear roads. Clear harbor and launch ramps. AND as you readers all know from the AOJ Fishing Reports there are plenty of king salmon cruising the waters already. So for the fun of it let's just say 1000 anglers participate this year. Here is how the Top Ten Biggest Fish prize money would break out in this example:

  1. 1st Place $21,000
  2. 2nd Place $14,000
  3. 3rd Place $11,000
  4. 4th Place $8,000
  5. 5th Place $6,000
  6. 6th Place $5,000
  7. 7th Place $4,000
  8. 8th Place $3,000
  9. 9th Place $2,000
  10. 10th Place $1,000

How can anyone sitting here reading this with a nice saltwater boat covered up in the yard NOT want to get involved in this Tournament? This year is a weather window scenario that may be a once every 7 or 8 years occurrence. The more participants the higher those money awards get. And remember, it is possible an angler could catch two money fish with a two kings per day limit in these waters.

But wait, there's more. For fish places #11 through #20 there are merchandise prize awards. These are higher value goodies too and most anglers are happy to win one of these.

Am I beginning to sound like Ron Popeil on an infomercial? But wait, there's more. NEW THIS YEAR, there is a $250 Cash Prize for the heaviest WHITE King Salmon weighed in.

SPLIT THE POT drawing @ 6PM: And there's still more opportunities to win. More chances to win BIG MONEY. There will be a SPLIT THE POT drawing that could mean someone winning some substantial cash. The potential for this pot is "sky's the limit."
ALL PEOPLE, i.e. landlubbers, helpers, volunteers, spectators, and all the participants including non-fishing Captains and Deck hands can purchase as many $20 Tickets as they want to get in on this drawing. This allows everyone a chance at some serious dinaro without even wetting a line!! Come on down to HQ early in the week or Coal Point Trading on Saturday and purchase your ticket(s). Tournament participants will be given "updates" over the radio as to how large this pot is growing and everyone will have an opportunity to get in on the action back at the weigh ins and at the post-tourney ceremony before the drawing. (Example: 500 tickets = $10,000 to split between the Chamber and Winner. 1000 tickets would be a $20,000 pot.)

BOAT SIDE BETS: I'm sure you have heard that expression "Put your money where your mouth is." Well in a way this is kinda where the rubber meets the road when it comes to a BOAT'S PROWESS as a big fish catching machine. Side Bet winnings can often reach tens of thousands of dollars for a boat that has caught a sizeable fish and chose the correct side bet categories to enter. Here is how this part of the tournament works for the Side Bet Rules.

  • All individuals fishing on board the boat registered in the Tournament must be an entrant of the tournament for the boat to enter side bet.
  • All rules from Winter King Tournament apply to boat side bets and to all anglers on the boat.
  • A boat side bet is a bet placed under the name of the boat in any of the eleven different categories. Maximum number of boat side bets placed under the name of a boat is FIVE plus the Skunk Bet.
  • A boat can have only one boat side bet entry per category.
  • Each boat must appoint a representative to make the payment for the side bet, who must be an angler on or skipper of the boat for bets placed before 8:30 am on the day of the tournament.
  • After 8:30 am, boats not yet purchased will be open to the general public to bet on. The maximum number of boat side bets under the name of a boat is FIVE plus the Skunk Bet.
  • Each boat representative or buyer is responsible for receiving and disbursing the prize money.
  • All bets must be placed before 9:00 am lines in.
  • If a boat enters a side bet category, only fish caught on that boat can be entered under that boat name.
  • Any angler's fish caught on a boat participating in a side bet can be entered as a side bet fish even if that angler was not a side bet participant.

The Categories are: SKUNK($50), $25, $50, $75, $100, $125, $150, $200, $250, $300, & $500.

A boat wanting to place a Side Bet will choose one or more of these categories to enter, up to FIVE maximum plus the SKUNK bet if they want. The Skunk bet is betting your boat will catch at least one king salmon of any size and not get skunked. All boats who pay the $50 Skunk bet for this category and end up catching a king salmon will split the pot with other successful boats who also made that wager.

A boat can only make wagers in FIVE of the remaining Ten categories so some serious strategy must be used. For these categories there is only ONE WINNER in each one. The boat entered in that side bet that turns in the biggest king salmon wins 75% of the pot with the remainder going to the Tournament host, the Chamber of Commerce.

EXAMPLE: 125 boats place a bet in the $200 Category. That is a pot of $25,000. The boat in this category with the biggest fish would win a whopping $18,750. Another example: Say 25 boats entered a bet in the $500 category. That pot would be $12,500 and the boat with the biggest fish would take home $9,375. But if 100 boats entered the $500 wager, the take home pot winnings would be $37,500!! Are you seeing how variable the Side Bet winnings can be and how important it is to choose the perfect categories? And oh yes, you must catch that biggest fish. :-)

NOTE: Since its always the biggest fish in the category that takes the Side Bet pot, the fewer the boats entered in a category, the greater the chance the biggest fish of the Tournament might not be in that category. In past years a boat could enter all side bets and if they caught a 1st Place fish they would sweep the board. NOW, with a limit of five you must use some strategy in choosing which you want to compete in. The lower denominations will always have the most boats entered and thus the most competition. ALL side bets must be placed by 8:59AM March 23, 2013 before fishing begins.

And you thought that was all? WRONG! The Tournament will offer a Coupon good for One FREE LAUNCH and One Free Night Mooring, courtesy of the Homer Harbor Authorities to help encourage more participants. The Free Night can either be Friday or Saturday. You will need to register with the Harbor Master by Friday evening. And you must pick up your coupon at the Tournament Headquarters location before 8PM Friday night. There are links below to guide you to all this information.

Now doesn't all this sound like a lot of fun to finish off a great winter we are having? Here's one last thing to digest to get your adrenaline flowing. Roger Long at right caught this 33.7 pound feeder king salmon on 2/21/13. Had that fish been caught in the Homer Tournament, it would have definitely taken home some serious money. In the past 19 years of tournaments, it would have placed 1st in seven, 2nd in seven, and twice in 3rd Place. The table below shows the past derby years and which positions and money amounts it would have won. And just think of the Side Bet pots this fish would have won for the categories it was entered. So folks, what are you waiting on? Get that snow shovel working and dig out that boat. Its going to be an EARLY SPRING so you might as well get it sea-worthy starting with the Homer King Salmon Tournament. You might be able to buy a new boat with your winnings!

OK, GREAT, you have decided this will be your first year to enter the Tournament since its incredibly warm, the sea temperatures are hitting 38°F already, the roads are in perfect condition, the harbor is ice free, the boat ramps are in perfect shape, the bay is filling with feeder king salmon and you can't pass up this opportunity to win some mega bucks with a lucky catch and/or bet. Unfortunately the few operational winter charter boats in Homer have been booked long ago. That leaves your only option being to get out that snow shovel and put that boat in the driveway this weekend and get it ready for MARCH 23, 2013. Call up your buddies who will fish with you and have a work party to get the boat ship shape and Coast Guard approved. BTW, the State Troopers will have their boat out on the water during the Tournament but its a lot of water to cover if there was an emergency.

Here is my best piece of advice for First Timers. After reviewing all the Tournament information pages and entry forms, contact the Tournament office and have them help you get through the registration process so you don't overlook something. And BTW, you can sign up online and pay your entrant fees for yourself and five additional anglers using your Credit Card. Side Bets must be placed separately. You can also find all these links in the Tournament pages navigation column on the left side of most pages.
QUESTIONS? Tournament Headquarters: 235-7740
Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center will be open Monday - Wednesday until 5:00 PM, Thursday until 6 pm and Friday until 8 pm.
On Saturday, TOURNAMENT HEADQUARTERS is at Coal Point Trading which opens at 7 am 235-3877.

King Salmon Tournament Home Page | Event Information | Tournament Rules | Safety Information | Bets & Prizes
Forms & Entries | Printable Entry Form | Side Bet Form
ONLINE Boat & Multiple Anglers Registration | Harbor Vessel Moorage Agreement

Wishing you all Good Fishing & Good Luck!
See you out there, Klondike Kid

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