• It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy
By Sean Pearson
Hey Kenai angler Raymond Tepp! You just won $19,000 for the 30.6-pound fish you caught in the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament. What are you going to do next – take a trip to Disney World?
“I’m going to buy my fiancé a much-needed car and give my crew a share,” Tepp said without missing a beat. “I couldn’t have landed it without them.”
Tepp was cautiously optimistic when he hit the water with his buddies Saturday morning. This would be his seventh year entering Homer’s winter king contest, and — so far — he’d had nothing to show for it.
That changed around 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Tepp was fishing aboard his father’s boat, the F/V Inlet Plunder, amid a beautiful sunny day of fishing.
“I take care of my dad’s boat and make sure it’s all ready to go when he is ready to go fishing,” Tepp explained. “It was my moms old setnet skiff that we put a cabin on and rigged out for hunting and sport fishing.”
A driftnet fisherman all of his life, Tepp also hunts moose and bear.
“I will go for anything that puts fresh food on the table,” he explained. “We clam-dig a lot, too.”
Tepp first started fishing for winter kings about 12 years ago, so he knew he was into a big fish when it first hit his line Saturday afternoon.
“He almost spooled all of my line,” he said. “I couldn’t get any line back from him for the first 10 minutes, and that has never happened to me during a fight.”
Tepp said he really didn’t want to lose the fish, so he knew better than to try to horse him in.
“It took about 30 minutes to land him, but it was the best fight I’ve ever had,” he said. “He was so big, he didn’t fit in my fish box. It’s the biggest winter king I have ever caught.”
Tepp said his group started fishing around Anchor Point, but the water was rather rough, so they moved closer to Bluff Point, where it was nice.
“It was absolutely beautiful out,” he said. “The warmest weather we have had in a few years.”
Tepp said his win on Saturday is now one of the things he can cross off his bucket list. How can you get any better than fighting and landing a 30-pound winter king on a clear, warm day, as well as going home with $19,000 in your pocket?
“This is going to be a very hard one to top, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try,” he said. “I would live on the water if I could, so I’m sure someday I will catch a bigger fish.”
The trick, he said, is landing that fish on the day of the tournament.
According to the Homer Chamber of Commerce, 906 anglers caught 202 fish from 270 boats on Saturday. Chamber director Jim Lavrakas said the tournament is the second-best ever, in terms of those numbers.
Three kayakers competed in the tourney — a first this year. However, none of the kayak fishermen landed a king.
The top 10 winners in the tournament shared a pool of $67,950, and places 11-20 shared in merchandise worth $5,625. Boat Side Bet payout totaled $47,775. Homer angler Wylie Donich placed 13th overall, and won the $250 Youth Award (17 and under) for the second year. He was fishing on his dad Daniel’s boat, the F/V Optimist.
The largest white king was landed by Mark Bevins of Kenai. Bevins hauled in a 17.6-pound white king worth $250 while fishing aboard the F/V In-Seine.
The John Hillstrand Memorial Award went to Raymond Tepp, who was piloting his own boat.
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