Haines commercial longliners pull in 425-pound halibut

Three Haines commercial fishermen caught a 425-pound halibut measuring 91 inches in length.

“It was just an epic fish,” said fisherman Cole Thomas, who hooked the fish with his father and captain Bill Thomas and friend Jeff Wackerman. “This one is a lot more special than most.”

The three caught the halibut earlier this month in Icy Strait, near Point Adolphus, with a commercial longline using cod and humpy salmon heads as bait.

“I could see the line was going straight down. That means something big’s coming. I was telling my friend (Jeff): It’s going to be a big one, get ready,” Cole Thomas said.

The fight began at the surface, he said. He hooked the halibut’s bottom jaw, then wrapped a rope around its tail and used a hydraulic drum to lug the fish tail-first into the boat, before dragging it up onto the deck and cleaning it.

“We usually catch a fish like that almost every year. But it’s been a while since we had one at 91 inches,” Thomas said. It weighed 310 pounds gutted and headless.

He added that it’s not the biggest halibut he’s ever caught in 22 years fishing out of Haines but he guessed it would be the largest hauled in by a Haines fisherman this year.

In three trips to Icy Strait, Thomas and his mates caught about 12,000 pounds of halibut, which are selling for a soaring $8 per pound, Thomas said.

That means the monster halibut netted more than $2,400. The crew pitched it to a Hoonah processor, Thomas said.

The largest sport-caught halibut on record in Alaska weighed 459 pounds, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Sport fishermen hooked it in 1996 in Unalaska Bay near Dutch Harbor.

A fisherman from California hauled in a 482-pounder in Icy Strait eight years ago but shot and harpooned it before bringing it aboard, violating rules set by the International Game Fish Association, which maintains the record book.


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