Ketchikan kids hook barn-door halibut off dock

Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2002

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- A pair of 11-year-olds who have been fishing partners ''for years'' landed a 162-pound halibut off the Knudson Cove Marine dock.

The battle between Zachary Hamilton, Gregory Johnson and the flatfish took more than two hours and drew a crowd of helpers and onlookers on June 8.

Marina workers say they cannot recall anyone landing a larger fish while fishing from that dock.

The boys began fishing in the afternoon and had put in two hours before they hooked the lunker.

Zach was nearby, trying to catch bait. Greg was tending the poles when the fish hit.

''I pretty much knew it was a halibut because it had the pole halfway in the water,'' Greg said. ''I dove for the pole.''

The fish had struck a half-cut herring attached to a 40-pound-test salmon leader with a 6-ounce weight. The line itself was 30 pound test, frayed by a broken eyelet on the pole.

While Greg set the hook, another boy ran to get Zach, who quickly returned.

''Gregory started reeling it in,'' Zach said. ''Then he gave it back to me, and then we started giving it back and forth.''

After the fish took off on a run, the boys moved onto a boat at the end of the dock to prevent the line from getting tangled.

A crowd gathered. The boys' friends, Kevin Seabolt and Axel Svenson, were on hand. Charter boat skippers Luke Stamm, Charley Bentley and Rick Brame came over to help.

Dewie Hamilton, Zach's dad, heard what was going on and arrived about an hour into the battle. About 20 tourists looked on.

''It fought quite a bit,'' Zach said. ''Even when it wasn't fighting, it was hard to pull up because it was so heavy.''

As the struggle neared its end, one of the charter skippers harpooned the halibut and tied a buoy onto it. Another charter skipper then shot it, and the fight was over.

Although it was obvious they had a sizable halibut on the line, people were surprised when the fish finally was hauled out of the water.

''They didn't know it was going to be that big,'' Zach said. ''They were pretty amazed.''

The fish was filleted.

''We've been eating it for the last four nights,'' Greg said Thursday.

Both young fishermen say they've recovered from the sore arms brought on by all the reeling and tugging. Meanwhile, word of the catch is attracting other fishermen to the fortunate spot, said Tonja Borer, operations manager of Knudson Cove Marina.

''People have not stopped coming,'' Borer said. ''They ask if they can fish off the dock.''



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