Make that a three-point win for Anchorage angler Leszek Kuligowski, top angler in Saturday’s 20th annual Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament.
Kuligowski claimed a $15,372 first-place check for reeling in a 35.1-pound king salmon. He also took home $25,875 in side bets. And, fishing from his own boat, Kuligowski claimed the John Hillstrand Memorial Award for being captain of the first-place fish.
“The captain award is the biggest prize,” said Kuligowski, who bought his boat couple of years ago and fished the tournament for the first time this year. “The money will come and go, but that (plaque) will be on the wall forever.”
An avid river fisherman, Kuligowski said he didn’t know how to rig poles for king salmon fishing in open water, but fortunately was given tips from someone in Anchorage who does.
“I just followed his directions,” he said.
On Saturday, he fished with family and friends off the bluffs, an area he heard was popular for catching king salmon. What he heard proved true. Not only is that where he caught his first-place king, but his father-in-law, Edward Heath of Anchorage, caught a 23.5-pound king salmon and took sixth place in the tournament.
The seven-hour, one-day event, sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, attracted 732 anglers — including entrants from Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas and Washington — fishing from 206 boats. Six of those boats were kayaks.
“It was perfect conditions and we had a lot of fun being out there,” said kayak captain Rudy Tatsuda of Anchorage. “I wish we could have caught some fish, but that’s OK.”
In a party of three sit-on-top kayaks, Tatsuda said he fished off the bluffs.
He praised the sit-on-top style of kayaks that he’s been using in Alaska for three years. They are self-baling and are propelled with pedals rather than paddles.
“They’re not as fast or as sleek as ocean-going kayaks, but because we can use our legs, we can go all day because it’s hands free,” he said, adding that he anticipates their popularity will catch on. “I think it’s just going to be something that explodes in Homer and Seward at some point. … I feel safer on it than my 21-foot center-console boat. This kayak I’d take anywhere.”
The biggest challenge to spending a day on the water in a kayak: liquid management.
“You’re trying to keep from cramping up from being out there all day, but you don’t want to be guzzling too much either,” he said.
Kuligowski wasn’t the only angler to take home multiple awards. Jim Morgan of Anchorage won the third-place prize of $8,052 for his 25.45-pound king salmon and the $250 prize for reeling in the largest white king. This is the first year for this award, sponsored by Café Cups.
Rudolph “Shep” Schoepke was the highest placing Homer angler with his fourth-place 24.25-pound king salmon. He also caught the 18th place winner, an 18.75-pound king salmon while fishing near Elephant Rock, known to locals as “Scott’s Hole” in honor of the late Scott Harding.
“Sunday evening we had everyone over here and ate half of one,” said Schoepke. “It’s darned hard to beat.”
Homer’s Wylie Donich won the $732 10th–place prize with a 20.65-pound king salmon and also won the $300 Bill Thompson Youth Award given to anglers younger than 18 years catching the largest king salmon. Bay Roamers Water Taxi sponsors that prize.
Following his first-time, prize-winning experience, Kuligowski had high praise for the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament.
“It’s a beautiful event,” he said, adding that he would like to see it promoted more both in and out of state. “I talked to people and they know it’s there, but not much about it. Winter kings in Alaska could make for a big crowd.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament Prize Winners
The top 10 winners receive cash prizes; the next 10 receive merchandise prizes.
• First place, $15,393:
Leszek Kuligowski, Anchorage, 35.10-pound king salmon;
• Second place, $10,262: Christopher Hollwedel, Wasilla, 27.35-pound king salmon;
• Third place, $8,063: Jim Morgan, Anchorage, 25.45-pound king salmon;
• Fourth place, $5,864: Rudolph Schoepke, Homer, 24.25-pound king salmon;
• Fifth place, $4,398:
Russell Walls, Homer, 23.65-pound king salmon;
• Sixth place, $3,665: Edward Heath, Anchorage, 23.50-pound king salmon;
• Seventh place, $2,932:
Toras Fisk, Homer, 23.25-pound king salmon;
• Eighth place, $2,199: Shannon Bevegni, Anchorage, 22.00-pound king salmon;
• Ninth place, $1,466: Terry French, Anchorage, 20.80-pound king salmon;
• 10th place, $733:
Wylie Donich, Homer, 20.65-pound king salmon
• 11th place: Lorraine Ahlquist, San Diego, Calif., 19.95-pound king salmon;
• 12th place: Jon Bartelds, Kenai, 19.90-pound king salmon;
• 13th place: Harold Ebersole, Eagle River, 19.75-pound king salmon;
• 14th place: Rob Larkey, Jr., Anchorage, 19.25-pound king salmon;
• 15th place: Dan Cuddy, Anchorage, 19.00-pound king salmon;
• 16th place: Arn E. Johnson, Homer, 18.85-pound king salmon;
• 17th place: Robert Rude, Homer, 18.80-pound king salmon;
• 18th place: Rudolph Schoepke, Homer, 18.75-pound king salmon;
• 19th place: Alan Gilbert, Anchorage, 18.60-pound king salmon;
• 20th place: Henry Riggs, Sterling, 18.60-pound king salmon.
• Largest winter king salmon, $200: Jim Morgan, Anchorage, 25.45-pound king salmon;
• Bill Thompson Youth Award, $300: Wylie Donich, Homer, $300;
• $25 side bet, 37 entries, $693.75 prize: Alaskan Assassin represented by Diamond Bevegni, 22.00-pound king salmon;
• $50 side bet, 55 entries, $2,062.50 prize: Sea Wolf represented by Jim Morgan; 25.45-pound king salmon;
• $75 side bet, 55 entries, $3,093.75 prize: Sea Wolf represented by Jim Morgan, 25.45-pound king salmon;
• $100 side bet, 92 entries, $6,900 prize: unnamed boat represented by Leszek Kuligowski, 35.10-pound king salmon;
• $125 side bet, 50 entries, $4,687.50 prize: unnamed boat represented by Leszek Kuligowski, 35.10-pound king salmon;
• $150 side bet, 54 entries, $6,075 prize: unnamed boat represented by Leszek Kuligowski, 35.10-pound king salmon;
• $200 side bet, 36 entries, $5,400 prize: unnamed boat represented by Leszek Kuligowski, 35.10-pound king salmon;
• $250 side bet, 15 entries, $2,812.50 prize: unnamed boat represented by Leszek Kuligowski, 35-10 pound king salmon;
• $300 side bet, 4 entries, $900: Thunder Bay represented by Richard Bagley, 17.90-pound king salmon.
• $500 side bet, 1 entry, $375: No winner;
• Skunk, 91 entries, $74.18: 46 boats win.