The following appears in the April issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:
BY CHRIS COCOLES
The season might be spring now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not time for the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament.
After the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the popular one-day event in 2020, last year’s edition was pushed back from the usual mid-March date to mid-April. The rationale was that a later start – vaccines had helped slow down the spread of the virus – would allow for better odds of staging a safer event, which it was.
So, why mess with a good thing?
The 2022 Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament returns on April 9.
We caught up with Brad Anderson, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce, about the details of this month’s event.
Chris Cocoles After having to cancel a tournament in 2020 and getting through a successful 2021 event, are you hoping for a little more normal Homer Winter King Tournament in 2022?
Brad Anderson It’s hard to say what is normal nowadays. From what we are seeing with our early registrations and comments, it looks like we will be close to the number we had last year, around 1,500 anglers.
CC It looks like the decision to have an April start worked out well last year and you’ll do it again. How has the later date had a positive effect?
BA We received many comments last year that the April date allowed more people to get boats out of the snow, so they were able to participate when they could not in the past. This was especially true for many Anchorage- and Fairbanks-area residents. We also had more charter operators that were able to take people out, as it became cost- effective to launch their boats just a couple weeks earlier than normal.
CC Can you share some of the difficulties you had last year in having to put together a successful tournament with the restrictions?
BA The biggest challenge we had with last year’s tournament was putting the process for the side tournaments online. In the past, we would have hundreds of participants come to our chamber office to do those transactions, as they could not be done online due to gaming restrictions. It took a bit to work out the bugs, but it ended up working out great and we did not have to require people to gather in large groups in order to participate. We also moved our event area to another section of Homer Harbor, next to the cruise ship dock.
This was a big change after 27 years in the old location, but the significantly larger open space allowed us to spread people out more. This will now be our regular event area, as it worked out so well.
CC What can participants and visitors to Homer expect on April 9?
BA The weather is already warming up and moving out the snow and ice from Homer. So conditions look great for a great time out on the water, enjoying the beautiful ocean waters of Kachemak Bay. We have added a large tent to the event area, so people can get out of the weather more if they like and we can have more activities inside that area.
We are also receiving hundreds of donated prizes from vendors that we will be handing out all day long to the tournament participants. We are always looking for things we can do to improve the experience for our tournament participants and spectators.
CC How do you expect the fishing to be?
BA I sure wish I could give you an accurate projection on that, but any experienced angler knows well how conditions can change. There have been kings caught in the bay all winter, so we know they are there.
CC Can you summarize the prize money and other awards for this year’s tournament?
BA The amount of cash prizes are dependent upon the total number of anglers who participate in the tournament. We pay out 65 percent of the registrations and side tournaments collected. Last year that amounted to over $238,000. Cash prizes are paid out to the top 10 fish and large prize packages are given to those who place 11th to 20th.
CC Alaska can have some long and cold winters, so how much do you think the locals look forward to this event as kind of a springboard to spring and summer? BA That was a key factor to creating this event. After the long winter, people are very anxious to get out fishing once again and enjoy being outdoors among friends and family. Here in Homer, many of our seasonal businesses start opening in time to support the crowds coming down here, so the local residents look forward to everything opening back up.
CC Tell us about how much hard work goes into this event from not only the Homer Chamber but also the sponsors and any volunteers who help.
BA We have a committee of nine people who work on this event all year long. Our presenting sponsor, Ulmer’s Drug & Hardware, not only provides key financial backing. but they also are key to how we get so many prizes to give away during the tournament. It typically takes at least 50 volunteers to also provide all the support services from event planning to logistics on tournament day for an event this size. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more info, go to the tour- nament’s website, homerwinterking.com, or call the Homer Chamber of Commerce office (907-235-7740).