Charter fishing restrictions dampen derby ticket sales

The Homer Chamber of Commerce website tells a cautionary tale of anglers who did not purchase a Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby ticket and caught fish that would have earned them hundreds or thousands of dollars. 

The moral of the story, according to Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center Executive Director Karen Zak, is for both locals and tourists to purchase a derby ticket before halibut fishing. 

“I’m encouraging locals to buy tickets … that would be great if we had some locals win too,” Zak said.

Historically, the majority of derby tickets sales are from visitors to Homer going out on charter boats. However, changing fishing regulations for charters over the last few years have affected sales, Zak said.

Tickets sales went down by 7,336 tickets between 2008 and 2015, according to data from the Homer Chamber of Commerce. The chamber sold a total of 10,433 tickets in 2015. 

Current charter fishing regulations restrict the days, number of trips per day and the number of fish kept, which then limits the amount of anglers going out on charters, Zak said. Charters cannot fish halibut on Wednesdays this year, a change from previous years’ Thursday fishing ban. 

“They switched it to Wednesdays based on analysis of fish harvested in 2014 before the daily closures were implemented and there were slightly more harvested on Wednesday, so switching to Wednesdays it allowed them to have a daily closure…with a slightly bigger chance of reducing the harvest,” according to Alaska Fish and Game fishery biologist Scott Meyer.

Charters can only take one trip per day to fish halibut, whereas they used to be able to take two trips per day, therefore increasing the number of anglers going out on the water each day. There is also a two halibut per day – one of any size and one of 28-inches or less – and a four halibut per year limit on charters.

Private fishing boats do not have these restrictions, however, so those fishing on their own boats may even be at an advantage in the derby, Zak said. They are restricted to two fish of any size each day, and have no annual limit. Anglers on private boats joining in on the derby would also help bring ticket sales back up.

“If more people on private boats bought tickets, that would really help us,” Zak said. “They have just as much chance, if not more, to win.” 

Despite the drop in ticket sales, the derby still serves its purpose in promoting Homer as a summer vacation destination, Zak said. Marketing the derby in newspapers, magazines and on radio and television stations across the state allows the chamber to highlight Homer as a “foodie town” and a place with a variety of attractions, as well as a fishing hotspot, Zak said.

“It gives us a jumping off point marketing Homer statewide and we still feel it’s a valuable event,” Zak said. “It’s a platform to market Homer across the state – fishing but also for other activities.”

The derby runs until Sept. 15 and has several opportunities for anglers to win prizes, from $100 for bringing in the tags from previous years’ fish to the $50,000 GCI sponsored fish. There are 115 new tagged fish in the water, Zak said.

There is also a pool for anglers who catch-and-release 48-inch or over fish, which will award one lucky person $1,000 at the end of the season, Zak said. The chamber added an additional focus on conservation this year, including information about the halibut life cycle in the 2016 derby brochure. The derby also only gives an award for one large fish, instead of awarding several top fish.

To enter the derby, anglers only need to buy their ticket before going fishing the same day. 

“It’s so fun when someone brings a tag in and gets rewarded for fishing,” Zak said.

31st Annual Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby


May 15 – September 15, ending at 7 p.m.


Purchase tickets from the Halibut Derby Spit Headquarters, Homer Chamber of Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center (201 Sterling Highway), charter captains, or local businesses.


$10 per Derby Day Ticket


All fish must be taken on sport tackles only; all anglers must comply with Federal and Alaska Fish and Game Regulations; bring big fish and current and prior year tagged fish entries to be weighed at the Halibut Derby Spit Headquarters between by 7 p.m. on the day caught, unless on a documented overnight charter. For other rules, see the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby brochures at ticket-selling locations. 


Jackpot prize: largest fish of the season.

GCI tagged fish: $50,000

Stanley Chrysler vehicle tagged fish: $35,000 credit toward a vehicle at Stanley Chrysler of Soldotna or Stanley Ford of Kenai.

Tagged fish: over 100 fish worth $1,000, $500, $250 and more.

Prior year tag: $100

Catch a lefty (both eyes on the left side): $100

Released fish prize drawing for 48-inch or more halibut: $1,000

Five kids cash prizes: for anyone 12 years or under. End of season drawing for buying a ticket.

Information: or 235-7740