Along with the many entertainment, recreational and community events being rescheduled or canceled while Alaska works to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the Winter King Salmon Tournament in Homer has been postponed.
The annual king salmon fishing tournament was scheduled for this weekend, but has been moved to Saturday, April 25, according to a press release from Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center Executive Director Brad Anderson. The Chamber has been hosting the event since 1994.
The decision to move the tournament date was made by the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors after “consultation with a variety of community stakeholders including the City of Homer, South Peninsula Hospital, the charter fishing community and the Tournament Committee,” Anderson wrote in the release.
“This was not an easy decision, but was made in order to encourage community safety and social distancing as recommended by the (Center for Disease Control),” Anderson wrote. “This will allow us to continue this popular event with community safeguards in place to support the reduction of the spread of COVID-19 virus. We will continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation going forward.”
On Monday, President Donald Trump announced new federal recomendations that people limit meetings to 10 or fewer people. On Tueday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a health mandate prohibiting dine-in service at restaurants and bars and on-site consumption of alcohol at bars and breweries.
Anderson said in the release that the chamber understanding moving the event might complicate plans for those who registered to participate, but that the chamber is working to “accommodate the various needs.”
Interviewed last week when the tournament was still scheduled for this Saturday, Anderson said registration is trending upward compared to 2019. Last year’s event saw about 1,400 anglers participate, Anderson said.
“And we are definitely trending ahead,” he said.
Last year’s winner, Eagle River’s Shayna Perry, won a first place prize of $28,040 for her 26.7-pound white salmon. Perry also won for having the largest white salmon. Her total winnings were closer to $73,000, Anderson said. With more people registering for the event, he said people are likely to see higher prize payouts as a result.
The chamber gave out about $171,000 in prize money at the 2019 tournament, Anderson said.
Also, for the first time in 24 years, event organizers have raised the registration fee, Anderson said. This was done largely to be able to give anglers larger cash prizes, and to keep up with the rising costs of putting on the tournament, he said.
One way the Homer community helps make the tournament easier to participate in is through the free night of mooring offered by the Homer Harbor. This not only helps those who travel to participate from outside of Homer, Anderson said, but also is a way to showcase Homer’s harbor facilities.
Assuming the April date for the tournament holds, fishing will begin at 9 a.m. and lines come out at 4 p.m. Generally, the public is invited to watch the weigh-in process at Coal Point Seafoods on the Homer Spit.
Before the event was postponed, Anderson said there will be food vendors, music and a beer garden, as there have been at past tournaments. New this year, the chamber will be live streaming the weigh-in process on its website for those who stay home to watch.
As an incentive to register early, the chamber gave away a Tundra Cooler that was donated by Yeti to one participant who registered before the deadline. Anderson said a lot of registration happens within the last few days before the tournament. Another participant will be the winner of a grill donated by Traeger on the day of the tournament.
“Business like Yeti and Traeger really help make this a fun and rewarding experience for our tournament participants,” Anderson said in an email.
For updates on the tournament, go to the chamber’s website at homeralaska.org, or follow their Facebook page, Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament.