Drizzling rain and chilly temperatures did not deter anglers from having a whale of a time at the 25th annual Anchor Point King Salmon Calcutta tournament on Sunday, May 12. Excitement and anticipation were high among the 77 anglers registered to compete in the tournament.
Longtime Anchor Point resident Steve Walli of the fishing vessel Reflections caught the winning fish, weighing 28.45 pounds. He was awarded the $2,310 prize for first place at VFW Post 10221 later on Sunday evening. Walli is a two-time first place winner, having previously taken the prize in the 2017 tournament.
Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce Secretary Nine Cunningham sent out a community-wide email on Monday evening with the tournament results and next year’s tournament dates. The 2020 Anchor Point King Salmon Calcutta is scheduled to be held on May 8 and May 9.
“A big thank you to everyone who participated this year. It was our best yet,” Cunningham wrote.
Walli said seas were less than ideal for fishing.
“We didn’t launch off the [Anchor Point] beach —we came out of Homer,” he said. “The weather was a little sloppy pretty much all day. I think we ended up turning about eight fish loose … We ended up keeping three. It was a great tournament,” Walli said.
The fishing vessel Circus Circus won the prize for second place at $1,443, with a fish weighing 27.05 pounds. Vessel Fish Hawk won $577 for catching the average weight fish at 18.4 pounds. There were a total 44 fish brought in and weighed, with each of the top 10 fish weighing over 20 pounds.
Monetary prizes funded by the registration fees are awarded to individuals who catch the largest fish. Forty percent of the registration fees go to the first-place winner, 25 percent goes to the second-place winner, and 10 percent goes to the average-weight fish winner.
Bill Scott, owner of Natures Ventures just north of Anchor Point on the Sterling Highway, won the Calcutta auction prize of $3,587. Besides the monetary prizes awarded to participating anglers, the tournament also allows those unable to compete on the water an opportunity to win a prize. Every year, a Calcutta auction is held the night before the tournament and attendees can bid on and “purchase” a competitor’s boat for the day of the tournament. Scott bid on and won purchase of Walli’s boat, Reflections, thus awarding him the Calcutta prize when Walli won first place for catching the largest fish.
“That’s the big thing about (the Calcutta),” Scott said. “I wanted to fish it. … I did have a boat, I wanted to go out with my guys, but the fact is I didn’t have any volunteers for my boat. But I bid on the boat that won (the tournament), so I had the chance to win.”
Scott worked at the tournament, running the fish weigh-in process and recording boat names, names of the anglers, and the weights of each fish brought in.
The annual Calcutta tournament is not only a thrilling event for anglers to get out on the water and do what they love best, but also serves as a major fundraiser for the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce. The chamber’s earnings are derived from the registration fees and from the money raised at the Calcutta auction. Fifty percent of the auction funds and 25 percent of the money brought in by the registration fees go to the chamber.
The chamber earned a gross $5,030 from this year’s tournament, which will be used to cover their annual operating expenses. In 2018, a portion of their earnings were used to purchase new windows for the chamber building. The chamber also donates a portion of the funds to the Anchor Point tractor boat launch, operated by Anchor River Enterprises owner Todd Bareman, on an as-needed basis.
“[The Calcutta] provides the chamber’s main funding for the year,” Bareman said.
Registration fees were altered this year to $75 per angler, rather than the $100 fee per boat that anglers paid in 2018. This increased the funds raised through the registration fees and made the payouts to tournament winners and the Anchor Point Chamber much bigger than in previous years.
The tournament, originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 11, was delayed until Sunday morning due to rough weather conditions. At 5 a.m. on Saturday, there was already a 3-foot surf on the beach and increasing winds forecasted in the early afternoon, with conditions called for building all day, according to Bareman.
“Bigger boats could have gone (on Saturday), but it wouldn’t have been fair to the smaller boats,” Bareman said. “This is everybody’s tournament. Conditions on Saturday weren’t comfortable for anybody. If a small boat can’t fish (the tournament), we will call it off.”
Despite the rain and cooler temperatures, conditions on Sunday were much more comfortable and anglers absolutely reveled in the tournament. The 2018 Calcutta saw kayaks competing, but the smallest boat size competing this year were 16-foot vessels. The Calcutta is usually scheduled around Mother’s Day weekend because it is “the perfect weekend for feeder kings,” according to Bareman.
“The hooligan and the herring are running up north, and the kings follow that,” Bareman said. “It’s not near as good a catch by the end of the month.”
The annual Anchor Point King Salmon Calcutta is a time-honored tradition on the lower Kenai Peninsula, and anyone with a valid fishing license and king stamp can participate. The tournament rules follow state and federal fishing regulations “right to a tee,” according to Cunningham. Anglers can launch from anywhere, but they must bring their boats in to the Anchor Point boat launch. Cunningham was stationed at the boat launch during the tournament and kept track of the numbers, what boats had come in, and who still needed their fish to be weighed in.
At the end of the night, after the award announcements at the VFW, all participants only had satisfaction and good things to say about the Calcutta.
“It’s a nice, easy little tournament,” Scott said.