27th jackpot halibut derby begins today

With good halibut fishing being reported, the 27th Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby begins today. 

“People are going around the corner, past Flat Island and down to Elizabeth Island and catching fish weighing more than 100 (pounds) right now,” said Jim Lavrakas, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, sponsor of the event. 

Meldonna Cody, the chamber’s derby coordinator, said she also has heard some encouraging fishing reports.

“In the last few days we’ve had some big smiles walking in here,” said Cody of reports from local charter captains. “I believe one said they caught a 96-pounder.”

Last year, 15,000 $10-a-day tickets were sold to anglers hoping to hook one of many derby prizes. “We have 16,000 to sell this year,” said Lavrakas.

With the number of tickets tied to insurance coverage for event prizes, there won’t be any additional tickets printed. “We’re hoping we run out of tickets. How cool would that be to tell people, ‘Sorry, we can’t sell you a ticket. The derby’s so popular we don’t have any more tickets to sell’?” 

The jackpot prize for catching the largest halibut is $10,000, plus 50 cents from each ticket sold. 

The 2013 winner, Gene Jones of Bellevue, Iowa, reeled in a 236.2-pound halibut with a $21,281 payout. 

Other big prizes in the derby, which runs through Sept. 15, are in the tagged halibut category. There are 115 halibut wearing tags worth $250, $500 and $1,000, plus one tag worth a Ford F150 pickup from Stanley Ford and another worth $50,000 cash from GCI.

Last year, the value of each tagged halibut caught was kept secret until after the close of the derby. That has changed this year, with tags caught that are worth $250 and $500 “announced on a weekly basis,” said Lavrakas.

Anglers bringing in a tagged fish from a previous derby also are winners.

“It’s good for $100 in Homer bucks,” Meldonna Cody, derby coordinator, said. The “bucks” can be used for shopping at any participating business.

Other prizes include:

• Released fish prizes for the catch and release of halibut measuring 48 inches or more; there will be three monthly drawings worth $500 each and one at the end of the season worth $1,000;

• Kids prizes of $300, $250, $150 and $125 for anglers 12 years of age and younger;

• Catch a Lefty prize of $100 for catching a left-handed halibut;

• Captain’s prize, with 10 percent of the prize for the winning fish awarded to the charter captain of the boat on which the winning fish is caught;

• Ticket seller’s prize of $1,000 for the individual selling the derby ticket to the winning angler.

There also is a “Just for the Halibut” prize worth $5,000. No fishing is required to qualify, just the purchase of a ticket that is entered into a drawing at the derby’s end.

“You can come to Homer and for those who may not wish to fish, you can purchase a halibut derby ticket and be entered in that,” said Cody.

Derby tickets are available at the chamber and from numerous local businesses, including many fishing charters, making it convenient for early-departing anglers.

Boardwalk Bakery also will sell derby tickets this year.

“We open at 5 a.m. every morning and not a minute after,” said Boardwalk Bakery’s Kathy Hamrick. “And you can pick up breakfast and box lunches while you’re here.”

Tickets also will be available at the chamber’s Spit headquarters.

“It’s open from noon-9 p.m. seven days a week,” said Cody. 

Derby fans and anxious fish-catching anglers can follow leading derby entries thanks to a new service the chamber is offering this year: a leader board that will be on the chamber’s website.

“As soon as someone comes in and weighs a fish, it goes up there,” said Lavrakas.

“You’ll see the top five fish as they change places.”

A committee oversees the derby. It has had as many as 12 members and currently lacks a chair.

“We’re always looking for more people to come onto the committee and give their input,” said Cody.

More Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby information, including rules, can be found online at homeralaska.org/events/homer-jackpot-halibut-derby/derby-information.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.


27th Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby

When: May 15-Sept. 15

Tickets: $10 per day