Jackson Hobbs, 16, of Franklin, Idaho, is congratulated by Capt. Travis Larson of Alaska Premier Sportfishing for the 335.0-pound halibut Hobbs caught while fishing with Larson on on Aug. 19, 2014. Hobbs’ fish was worth $16,731.50 in last year’s jackpot halibut derby.-Photo Provided

Jackson Hobbs, 16, of Franklin, Idaho, is congratulated by Capt. Travis Larson of Alaska Premier Sportfishing for the 335.0-pound halibut Hobbs caught while fishing with Larson on on Aug. 19, 2014. Hobbs’ fish was worth $16,731.50 in last year’s jackpot halibut derby.-Photo Provided

Homer Jackpot Halibut derby: lots of chances to win

This year’s halibut sport fishery has begun with both tradition and change. The tradition is the successful Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, and the change is a set of new regulations.

May 15 marked the official start and the 30th anniversary of the Homer Chamber of Commerce’s popular halibut derby. The chamber is celebrating with large and numerous prizes. 

The Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby takes the crown for the longest running halibut fishing competition in Alaska. Started in 1986 as a way to promote tourism, the derby was first won by Tony DeMichelle with a 312-pound halibut. The $5,000 jackpot prize awarded to DeMichelle quickly grew into the event that is today boasting more than one million dollars in awarded prizes. 

Running from May 15 to Sept. 15, the halibut derby is an unofficial sign that summer is here. Many people travel to Homer from all over the state and country to enjoy the warm weather and take their shot at “the big fish,” worth $10,000. 

“I’d say our participants are maybe 60 percent tourists and 40 percent locals,” reports Melanie Champagne. Champagne is the new derby and raffle coordinator for the chamber of commerce. This is her first year organizing the derby. 

To fish in the derby, hopeful participants can purchase tickets at local vendors throughout town. Each ticket, priced at $10, allows you one day of fishing for any tagged halibut throughout the bay. If you catch a tagged fish during that day, you can win the prize associated with that fish. Proceeds of ticket sales go toward the prizes and operation of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. 

Fish are tagged with a wide variety of cash prizes, from $50 to $50,000. And, of course, the honored jackpot prize for the largest fish of the season. 

This year, however, the chamber is also tagging fish with merchandise like stays at local bed & breakfasts and gift cards for local businesses.

“People that catch anything over 48 inches and then release can be automatically entered in a $500 a month drawing,” says Champagne. Those who purchase a ticket but choose not to fish can enter a drawing for a $5,000 prize called “Just for the Halibut.” 

“I’ve heard a lot of people in town say, ‘I’m going to win it this year!’ They are fishing anyway, so why not buy a ticket and try for a prize?” says Champagne.

Two years ago, a local fisherman was kicking himself for not buying a ticket. While out fishing, he pulled up the fish tagged for $50,000 but hadn’t purchased a derby ticket. Sadly, he had to let some other participant try for that cash cow of a fish.

The regulations for the charter-boat halibut fishery are changing, however, and may pose challenges for the derby this year. Halibut is a federally regulated fishery, and the International Pacific Halibut Commission sets regulations along with NOAA to keep the fisheries in good health. 

For charter vessel anglers in 2015, there is an annual limit of five halibut that you can catch in a season and, from June 15 to Aug. 31, no fishing will be allowed on Thursdays. It’s hard to predict how these new regulations will affect the halibut derby. 

“We will definitely see a change in our Thursday ticket sales,” says Karen Zak, executive director for the chamber of commerce, “It’s hard to say how it will affect ticket sales on the whole.” 

Even with the change in fishing regulations, the derby organizers expect another successful year.

“Hopefully we will create that excitement to come on down here and go fishing,” says Zak. 

Aryn Young is a freelance writer for the Homer News.

Homer Jackpot
Halibut Derby

Started May 15
Runs to Sept. 15

• Daily tickets: $10

Fish are tagged with specific prizes and there will be a $10,000 prize for the largest fish of the season. 

Tickets can be purchased at area businesses, at the official derby headquarters down at the harbor, at the chamber’s visitor center or from select charter boat captains.  

Businesses selling tickets:
Beluga Lake Lodge, Best Western Bidarka Inn, Big Bear Charters, Boardwalk Bakery, Bob’s Trophy Charters, Central Charters, Fish Connection, Halcyon Heights B&B, Homer Ocean Charters, Inlet Charters, Kachemak Gear Shed/Redden Marine, North Country Charters, Petro Express, Rainbow Tours, Safeway, Salty Girls, Sports Shed, Sportsman’s Supply, Spyglass Inn, Timber Bay B&B and Ulmers Drug and Hardware.

Last year’s big fish winner:
Jackson Hobbs of Franklin, Idaho, with a 335.0-pound fish. The teen’s fish was worth $16,731.50. He caught it while fishing with Capt. Travis Larson of Alaska Premier Sportfishing.


More in News

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson star is Illuminated on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, just east of Anchorage, Alaska, in observation of the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A crew from the base went to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, but found that only half of the star’s 350 or so lights were working, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, but they plan to work through the week, if necessary, base spokesperson Erin Eaton said. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Avalanche delays holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city

ANCHORAGE — A holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city for more than… Continue reading

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read