KENAI - "Hitting the water" has a different meaning at the Homer Winter King Salmon Derby.
Anglers likely will have to chip boats out of ice along docks or dig them out of snow in their yards to reach Kachemak Bay for the 17th annual derby, which starts Saturday, the listed first day of spring.
That's fitting, said tournament coordinator Paula Frisinger. She called the derby a tradition for die-hard anglers looking to beat winter blues and get a line in the water.
"It's a spring breakup time thing," she said,
As of Tuesday, more than 100 people had signed up for the derby.
Competitors cruise Kachemak Bay, trolling for feeder kings that live in the area, feasting on herring. Carol Kerkvliet, an assistant management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the Chinook salmon hail from headwaters as far away as Oregon.
Weather tends to be the biggest challenge. Frisinger said 2010 would not be the first time anglers will have to break ice out of the harbor to get boats out.
She remained hopeful that clear skies would stick around for the weekend, but anglers often have to contend with rough water and gray skies.
"People still enjoy themselves even if it's snowing and blowing out there, but you get people regardless of what the weather is," she said.
Heavy snow and strong wind over the last two weeks have kept anglers off the water, Frisinger said.
People without a boat can sign up to be placed on one, but there's a waiting list. Entry fees are $100. Prizes are determined based on the amount the tournament collects.
The weather forecast for Saturday calls for mostly cloudy skies with highs in the mid-30s to mid-40s. Winds are predicted from the northeast at up to 17 mph, creating 2-foot seas.