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Halibut Derby ends after 34 years

Homer Chamber of Commerce

The Homer Chamber of Commerce Halibut Jackpot Derby will come to an end after this Sunday.
Since 1996, the chamber has been awarding prizes for the largest halibut caught in the Homer area and for catching and releasing tagged halibut.
Jason Schuler of Wahpeton, North Dakota is the current leader of this year's derby. He caught a 224.2 pound halibut on July 12. If no one who buys a ticket catches a bigger fish before Sunday, September 15, Schuler stands to win ten thousand dollars, plus fifty cents for each derby ticket sold.

Debbie Speakman is the executive director of the Homer Chamber. She spoke with KBBI’s Kathleen Gustafson on Tuesday and said…it is time to move on. 

I learned last night at the Homer City Council meeting that the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby has seen its last winner. So, Debbie Speakman, can you tell me why is the Halibut Derby going away?

Our board decided it's time to Sunset. It has been an incredible 34 years. We've seen a lot of big fish.

We've seen a lot of conservation with our release fish and moving to a tagged fish system, but it's not bringing in the tourists like it used to. We still see a lot of people from Anchorage and the valley coming but they're not coming because of the derby and they're not purchasing those derby tickets.
It's not because of overfishing?

We do like to talk about conservation and education fish and fill your freezer. We've got to take care of the commodity, but it's not because of overfishing. We're actually changing and we're going to introduce a new tournament.

That's what I hear, more along the lines of the Winter King Tournament.
So Winter King is successful and we understand it's going to be a slow start but it will be a two-day tournament in June. We are looking at one of the first two weekends of June because we have a pattern of less people coming in early June and it would be great if we could see people coming in and paying sales tax the first two weekends of June.

So that families will come down spend the weekend after Memorial Day and get our tourism season started off, right?