Prize halibut loses weight on the scale

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Just when it looked like Sam Fleury of Fairbanks had hauled in his first 200-pound halibut, the fish went on a crash diet.

As the giant flatfish was being weighed and photographed on the dock in Valdez for the local halibut derby, it regurgitated a a half-eaten, 10-pound ling cod.

While the halibut discharge cost Fleury a spot in the 200-Pound Club, it didn't stop him from moving into third place in the derby.

Fleury fished Sunday with Dave Wiley of Orion Charters and caught a halibut that looked like it might challenge for the lead in the derby. Back it Valdez, it was hung by the tail on the scale.

''I had it at 200 pounds even and when I turned away to do the paperwork somebody screeched and this big, old ling cod dropped out of its mouth,'' said official weighman Larry Hodges of the Hook, Line & Sinker in Valdez.

According to derby rules, the discarded fish had to be subtracted from the official weight. Fleury's fish went into the books at 189.1 pounds.

It's not unusual for smaller fish to fall out of mouths of halibut while they're being weighed, Hodges said.

''That's part of the reason we hang them upside down,'' he said. ''I've seen a gallon of water pour out of them because they filled up with water in the holding tank.''

Even with the benefit of the ling cod, Fleury's fish wasn't big enough to unseat derby leader Corry Larsen of Anchorage, who caught a 225-pound halibut June 7. Eric Holloway of Fairbanks holds second place with a 222.8-pounder caught June 4.

Fleury, 45, didn't mind that his fish didn't crack the 200-pound mark.

''It would have been nice to be over 200 but it doesn't matter,'' he said. ''I'd never caught a 100-pounder before.''

Everyone on the boat went home with plenty of halibut for the freezer, he said. ''We caught a couple 150s, a 120 and a bunch of 80s. It was a great fishing trip.''

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