Frigid weather lingering late in March has already forced one postponement, but Alaska richest fishing derby is set for Saturday when the 24th annual Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament makes Kachemak Bay a lively place.
The one-day tournament that kicks off the Southcentral fishing season attracted a record 1,508 anglers in 480 boats last year. Hometown fisherman Eric Holland earned a whopping $31,668 for his 25.5-pound king.
Cash prizes totaling more than $113,000 are expected this year.
Slightly warming weather is expected. Homer Port and harbor officials met with tournament officials March 14 when temperatures in the teens combined with 20-foot tides and northerly winds to push ice into the mouth of the harbor at the base of Homer Spit. Concerns for the safety of anglers and boats combined to force a one-week postponement.
Registration and tournament rules are here (www.homerwinterking.com/tournament.php?id=15).
Raise money for Challenge Alaska, ski for free
Challenge Alaska's biggest fundraiser of the year, Snowblast, takes place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 25 at Alyeska Resort.
Anyone raising at least $200 in pledges to support disabled sports through Challenge Alaska gets to ski for free all day, with breakfast and lunch included. The top fundraiser earns two tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies.
All monies go directly to ski school and help fund scholarships for people that can't afford the full price of a lesson as well as supporting program costs.
Last year, Challenge Alaska had nearly 230 volunteers teaching more than 1,300 lessons to 449 participants with disabilities.
"After I broke my back 6 years ago, there was a great organization to help me get back to ripping the alpine side of my ski addiction," wrote disabled skier Ira Edwards in an email. Edwards was paralyzed in a 2010 work accident and then broke his femur while racing in a sit-ski at the 2014 Arctic Man.
To find pledge forms and more information about Challenge Alaska, check the website www.challengealaska.org.
Situk kings off limits to anglers
A river renown for its steelhead will be closed all summer to sport fishing for a depleted population of king salmon.
The Situk River near Yakutat flows into the Gulf of Alaska and state biologists hope to see 450-1,050 of the big salmon escape upriver to spawn, but they've failed to meet that goal the last two years — with 174 counted in 2015.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game's preseason forecast calls for a run of 500 kings. The steelhead run is significantly larger, with 5,720 counted last year and more than 7,100 in 2015.
King salmon may not be targeted or possessed in the Situk and any king caught while fishing for other species must be immediately released.
The Situk weir count begins in May.
New system for state parks reservations
This week, Alaska State Parks is beginning its transition to using the Reserve America website for reservations at state parks.
During the transition period ending April 1, new reservations for state parks cabins cannot be made. For those who have canceled a cabin reservation and have unused credits toward a new reservation, refunds will be provided.
ReserveAmerica.com is used by the state park systems in 31 states as well as two federal agencies — the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — to provide reservations for cabins, campgrounds and other facilities.
The Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation's system for cabin reservations was developed in 1990. Since then, the number of cabins and the revenue generated from cabin rentals has grown but the reservation technology has not kept pace, according to according to Matthew Wedeking, Division of Natural Resources director. The existing state-run system does not provide access from mobile devices, cannot process refunds, and does not allow rental rates to be lowered during periods of high vacancy. The division decided to outsource its reservation system.
Questions about cabin reservations during the transition period should be directed to the DNR Public Information Center at 907-269-8400.
Steer clear of moose
Hungry, ornery moose can pose a danger this time of year, so the Alaska Department of Fish and Game suggests giving them a wide berth.
"Moose are just barely making it through winter right now," Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle said in a press release. "They're nutritionally stressed, tired and irritable. We need to keep our distance and by all means resist the temptation to feed them."
That's illegal, and state biologists say moose cannot adjust to unfamiliar foods, so anything people feed them may do more harm than good.
Keep pets away from moose encountered on local trails or in residential neighborhoods. "Moose can act out defensively when they encounter loose dogs," said Battle, adding that retreating dogs can create dangerous situations by drawing angry moose toward dog owners.
Anyone encountering aggressive moose in places frequented by the public can call Fish and Game or Alaska Wildlife Troopers.