Big fish and a big thanks

A couple of weeks ago I was excited about taking my new boat out for its first real trial to see how it performed and to see if it could catch fish (halibut on this trip).  I launched at the Homer Spit and went out beyond the cliffs. It was a really nice day with the tide coming in. Within the first 15 minutes — “wham” — I catch a nice 35 pounder. Then nothing for the next hour. I start messing around with electronics and other stuff that I need to familiarize myself with on this new boat and not doing what I should be doing, paying attention to my rod. Suddenly I hear the reel whizzing away.

It’s obviously a large fish. I grab the rod from the holder. Whatever it is keeps going and going and going to the point I think I’m going to run out of line. It finally stops.  Then, the reeling starts. I get this fish half way in and she decides to go out again — and three more times after that — burning up nearly an hour and my Penn reel. Finally I get a glimpse of this halibut that’s nearly as big as me, and after she makes a couple more short runs toward the bottom.

I start realizing I’m not prepared to land this fish. All I have on board is a gaff and very large net, but nothing to dispatch the fish while in the water.  I get her up next to the boat and with the rod in my left hand and gaff in the other I am able to gaff the fish — which the fish really found annoying. The fish and gaff are gone in an instant but she is still hooked on the end of the line.  After more fighting I get her up to the boat again. The gaff is gone, imagine that!

Somehow I managed to slide her into the net and alas, she didn’t like that either. She attempts to dive again but this time I’m able to keep her up near the surface, but only after bending the shank of the net in half and breaking my line.  So there I sit after an hour and a half of fighting this fish holding onto what’s left of the net and trying to get the fish in the boat with no success. At this point I’m exhausted as the fish is and I’m truly feeling like the “Old Man And The Sea” hanging out the back of the boat holding on to this big fish in a very disfigured net that’s only meant for salmon.

After trying to conjure up ways in my head of how I could get this fish in the boat — none of them are viable options because I can’t let go of the net — I finally decide I need some help. There was only one boat that I could barely see at a distance so I waited and waited. Finally a guide boat comes by and I attempt to wave him down to no avail. Then another comes by and I manage to get his attention and he slows down and cruises toward my vessel nearly colliding with mine in 3-4 foot seas.

 I’ll refer to this gentleman as Ray F. He says “looks like you have a big fish.” We discuss ways to land the fish and he finally hands over his gaff which I attempt to use but the net keeps hanging up on the boat. Ray said he thought he could get it into his boat so he comes close enough and I hand off the gaff, fish and what’s left of the net to him.  After a couple of attempts he is able to get it in on the back platform of his boat, yahoo!

We decide to leave the fish in his boat and head to the Spit. After arriving at the dock I finally get to shake Ray’s hand, introduce myself and thank him properly. We make a little bet as to the size and she comes in at 172 pounds with neither of us winning. Not only was Ray kind enough to help me out but he also filleted the fish on the back of his boat and wouldn’t accept an offer for some of the halibut or anything for that matter.

I’ll remember that day forever and not so much for screwing up with not having the proper equipment, and not so much for the size of the fish, but for the goodness of Ray F. Many, many thanks for your help, Ray!

Will Runnoe