Alaska Fishing derby season brings excitement with numerous derbies across the state, offering anglers the chance to reel in cash prizes.

fishing derby

by Melissa Norris

Summer is here and that means it’s derby-fishing season here in Alaska. Who reading this doesn’t love fishing and cash? Valdez, Homer, Anchorage, Seward, Pelican, Kenai—these communities and several others promote a derby or tournament to celebrate local resources and bring people to their communities to fish. Here is the rundown on some of the events I like to attend and the dates and schedule for some others.

Homer Winter King Tournament

Fishing derby

Chris Keithley took home over $75,000 in cash and prizes as the top winner in the 2024 Homer Winter King Tournament. © Misty Kincaid Photography.

The first derby in Alaska each year is one of the biggest with the first-place winner taking home over $75,000 in 2024 plus an array of merchandise prizes. The cash payout for the winner is the largest cash payout for a salmon derby on the entire US west coast—by many thousands of dollars! The 2025 Homer Winter King Tournament is March 22 so you will want to plan accordingly for next year. Alaskans are usually ready to get out in the crisp March air and get our hands on some fresh salmon, but this tournament also brings folks from outside. Feeder kings populate the area year-round, and this is Homer’s spring kick off.

The 2024 Homer Winter King Tournament awarded nearly $200,000 in cash and prizes and had over 1,000 participants. Merchandise prizes are handed out to anglers through prize packages and drawings, and everyone has an equal chance to win. Then there’s the cash prize for the biggest fish caught. Recent tournament champions have won over $75,000 for their fish! Most of the remaining cash is won through the boat side-betting component of the derby that is both a Homer Chamber of Commerce fundraiser and a chance for you to win cash. Go to to learn more about the Homer Winter King Tournament.

Homer Halibut Alaska Fishing Derby

This year’s Homer Halibut Derby runs from May 13 through September 2 with a big jackpot-style cash prize for the largest halibut. Each day anglers who think they have a chance that theirs is the biggest head to derby headquarters and weigh in at Buttwhackers in Homer. A longtime project of the Homer Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Homer Charter Association, the Homer Halibut Derby is an Alaska favorite.

The winning angler in the jackpot prize wins 60% of the total Derby entries, less $1,500 for the Released Fish prize. Weekly prizes are awarded for the largest fish, and if you release a big fish over 48 inches and take a photo for documentation, you can be entered to win the bonus $1,500 cash prize. Homer knows how to throw a party, so check out the Summer Solstice Festival on June 20 and the Big ‘But Ball over Labor Day Weekend. Go to for additional Homer Halibut Derby information.

Valdez Halibut Derby

© Melissa Norris

The annual Valdez Halibut Derby starts on May 25 this year and runs through summer, ending on September 1. The prizes for the Valdez Halibut Derby include a whopping $10,000 for the largest halibut caught during the duration of the derby. Second place takes $3,000 and third receives $1,500. There are also weekly prizes for first and second place. The Halibut Hullabaloo runs from June 7 through June 16. It’s a special event within the derby where the largest fish weighed in over that span earns an extra $1,000 to the angler who caught it. You just need your regular halibut derby ticket and some good fishing mojo. Visit for more information.

Pelican King Salmon Derby

The Pelican King Salmon Derby takes place each June during two consecutive weekends. Pelican is on the northwest shore of Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska. This year, the event weekends are June 14-16 and June 21-23 followed by an awards night the following weekend. Prizes vary each year, generously donated from local Pelican businesses and throughout Southeast. First prize has traditionally been $2,500 in cash. Plan your trip to Pelican this June for a chance to place in this year’s derby. You must be present at the awards ceremony so be sure to plan a week to stay, fish, and explore the area. Go to for more details on the Pelican King Salmon Derby.

Valdez Kid’s Pink Salmon Derby

The Valdez Kid’s Pink Salmon Derby is a special event that brings kids all around the state to the town of Valdez to celebrate fishing. There are prizes and cash for each age division. The Valdez Kid’s Pink Salmon Derby is held on Saturday, July 20. The free event brings families from all over. Kids ages 5- to 16 pick up a Valdez Fish Derby hat the morning of the event at the official weigh-in station. Then your family submits a photo online with each child, their hat, and a pink salmon to be entered for prizes.

A group of kids take over the local radio station, KVAK (93.3FM & 1230AM), and host an all-kids radio show announcing the derby winners and giving out prizes. A bunch of kids call in to the show. It’s a great way to get them involved in the community. I have taken my daughter a couple times, and it holds a special memory in our hearts. Visit to learn more.

Abigal Craig is no stranger to derby fishing. She has won the youth division of the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby for two years running! © Nathaniel Craig

Valdez Silver Salmon Derby

Fishing derby

The Valdez Women’s Silver Salmon Derby is a special one-day event that coincides with the general Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. These events bring visitors from all over to the community of Valdez. © Valdez Fish Derbies

Maizie and I made a trip to Valdez last summer just to fish in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby and we also went squidding with Valdez Outfitters. What fun! The Valdez Silver Derby runs from July 20 through September 1 this year when silvers are populating the bays and inlets around Valdez. The prizes for this derby are like the overall prizes for the town’s halibut derby with $10,000 awarded for first prize, $3,000 for second, and $1,500 for third. Folks love that there are first- and second-place daily prizes awarded throughout the derby. It’s memorable enough to visit Valdez to fish for salmon for your freezer and experience the beauty of Alaska. Can you imagine how much more exciting that can be if you were to win $10,000? Visit for more information.

Valdez Women’s Silver Salmon Derby

The folks in Valdez always throw a fun event and none is livelier than the Women’s Derby. This year’s Women’s Derby has a carnival theme with community activities and loads of prizes the evening before the fishing derby, which will be on Saturday, August 10. This special one-day event for women-only derby entrants also gets the ladies entered in the overall Silver Salmon Derby that is open to all. For the Women’s Derby, the angler who catches the largest coho gets $1,000 plus a pile of prizes. Second place receives $500 and a prize package, while third place gets $300 and a prize package. Both the fun community events and the derby are great times. Visit for more information.

Kenai Silver Salmon Derby

The Kenai Silver Salmon Derby takes a different approach. Their derby selects a magic weight to reduce selective fishing practices which can lead to catch-and-release injuries that compromise the health of the silver salmon population. A random weight is chosen daily to determine each daily winner and another magic weight is pulled at the conclusion of the derby to choose an overall winner. With both an adult and youth category, it’s a family affair. The overall adult category winner receives $5000 and youth receives $1000. The 2024 Kenai Silver Salmon Derby is September 10-15. New for 2024 anglers will be able to purchase derby tickets online. Learn more at

Additional Alaska Fishing Derbies and Tournaments

  • Sitka Salmon Derby May 25-27 and June 1-2, 2024
  • Craig-Klawock King Salmon Derby June 1 through August 11, 2024
  • Slam’n Salm’n Derby at Ship Creek in Anchorage June 14-22, 2024
  • The Coho Rodeo Silver Salmon Derby at Ship Creek in Anchorage | August 3, 2024
  • Golden North Salmon Derby August 9-11, 2024
  • Seward Silver Salmon Derby August 10-18, 2024
  • Haines Silver Salmon Derby September 15 through October 31, 2024

Melissa Norris is Publisher of Fish Alaska and Hunt Alaska magazines. She can be reached at

Once you’ve savored the excitement of Alaska fishing derby season, check out our blog archive for an abundance of fishing-related reading.