The Real Story Behind Catching a Big Halibut

Reeling in a halibut
Reeling in a halibut is like hoisting a bag of cement off the bottom of the ocean. Tim Bower

A new photo of a big fish will make you the center of attention at the Lake View Inn. After the picture of me hoisting a 60-pound halibut made it up and down the bar, everyone there wanted to hear the full story.

“We were a couple of hours out of Seward, Alaska, near the Chiswell Islands,” I began. “Uncle Fun was at the helm of the mighty Tsunami III, a 27-foot SeaSport Pilot. Nephew Tom was acting as first mate for our family party. We’d already hit the silver salmon and the rockfish hard before we navigated to a gravel bottom where Tom knew some big ’but would be lingering. We dropped seasoned herring bait down about 180 feet, and in no time I could a feel the bump on my line. I set the hook hard and went to work cranking on the reel. Not a monster but the biggest fish of the day. I had to give it the club once I flipped it into the boat…”

I tell this story with calm confidence, the same tone I use when sharing the experience of running a Fountain at 120 mph or gaining entry to an outboard manufacturer’s skunk works. A few of the Lake View crowd adventure vicariously through my stories. So, I try not to disappoint. If they knew the real truth, well…

I was aboard Tsunami III out of Seward with Uncle Fun and Tom, and I did catch some fish. But I’d just failed to set my own hook when Tom handed me his rod with the hook already set, despite my protest. “Here, Uncle Charles. I’ve caught a thousand halibut.”

Reeling in a halibut is like hoisting a bag of cement off the bottom of the ocean—very little skill involved. And it was Tom, a professional guide, who gaffed the halibut into the boat and then clubbed it into submission while I stood there like a dork angler from Wisconsin.

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When I told the story at the Lake View, I left out a few other details. Later in the day, I was trying to set the hook on another bite when the rod flipped over and I managed to drop it—into the ocean. The water was very clear, so I was calculating the expense of replacing Uncle Fun’s nice Penn rig before it was out of sight. We were at anchor in minimal current, and quick-thinking Uncle Fun started casting and dragging the bottom with a big treble hook, hoping for a miracle. A half-hour later, niece Jennifer hollered, “Bite!” and started reeling, and it seemed like something big because she was really working hard. What we finally saw over the side was the nice halibut she’d hooked tangled in the line of the rod I dropped, and a second halibut still on my hook. The entire mess was pulled aboard the boat.

I swear I am not making this up.

But telling this story at the Lake View would mean admitting that I dropped the rod overboard, and that would tarnish my carefully cultivated reputation. I also didn’t mention getting seasick enough to puke. Because, you know, I’m sort of an old salt. Ahoy!

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