Catching a 100-pound trophy halibut is considered a notable accomplishment aboard a boat well stocked with the bait, supplies and landing necessities aided by the help of a crew and fellow fisherman.
But Soldotna's Austin Petty recently landed a 104.4-pound halibut by himself, fighting an outgoing tide on 10-foot kayak.
His lesson learned?
"Don't go out alone," the 17-year-old said with a laugh a few days after landing the creature while on a family camping trip with a California friend near Whiskey Gulch.
On June 6 around 9:30 a.m., Petty paddled out about 300 feet from the water's break and tossed a whole herring over the side in about 25 feet of water, he said. He was fishing with a medium-light, 5 1/2-foot UglyStik rod rigged with 50-pound test line and a 300-pound leader letting the current pull his kayak out.
"The current was moving and I was just drifting and I'm out there about half an hour and the next thing I know my boat starts moving the opposite direction of the current," Petty said. "The tip of my pole snaps and it starts pulling line. I'm like, 'Crap, fish.' I thought it was just a little chicken. So I get it all the way up to the boat and then I look at this thing and I'm just like, 'Oh, crap.' This thing is humongous."
Petty tried to gaff the fish, but said he barely broke its skin. The halibut took off, smoking his reel for about 200 feet.
"He stopped pulling line and then he pulled me probably 200 feet from where I hooked him," Petty said.
As the halibut slowed, Petty reeled him back to the boat and tried to gaff him again. This time he was successful, but realized how much the fish weighed as he tried to pull it in the kayak.
After managing to get the halibut aboard, Petty began to paddle back to shore when the halibut gained strength and flopped out and over the side, again ripping off 200 feet of line or so, Petty said.
"By this time I'm probably a half mile away from shore and I'm freaking out because I have no clue if I can get him into the kayak and how I'm going to tie him down so he doesn't break my legs or flip me over," Petty said.
"He was strong enough that I had to sit on the opposite side of my kayak when he was pulling me," he added.
Eventually Petty was able to locate his friend Matthew Gilmore, a California resident, on the shore and alert him to be ready to help land the halibut.
"By that time I had him halfway on the kayak again and I got to shore ... we put the gaff through his gill plate and dragged him up the shore realizing this thing was 100-plus (pounds)," he said.
Petty and family took the fish to be weighed in Homer.
"When I saw that scale hit 100, I was freaking out and jumping for joy," he said. He added the family has already started to enjoy the catch, particularly in beer batter.
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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