SOLDOTNA (AP) -- Joe Paul always knew there was a good fishing hole along his property, downstream from Soldotna's Swiftwater Park. He has taken to relaxing in the evening by jabbing a cigar in his mouth and letting a weighted line and unbaited Spin-N-Glo bounce downstream.
On Friday evening, a 72-pound king salmon was holding in that water, near the bottom.
The red-flanked boar struck, swam out to the middle of the Kenai River, stopped, then turned back to within 20 feet of the shore, Paul said. ''I didn't put a whole lot of pressure on it. It seems like the more pressure you put on the fish, the harder they fight.''
Then the fish turned downstream, leading Paul on a 40-minute fight. The angler hopped up on the bank and tracked the fish for a quarter mile, from one end of his seven-acre spread to the other.
Then he got lucky. Instead of making a line-snapping run upstream, this Kenai king camped in an eddy, making several runs out but always coming back.
''I've been guiding for, shoot, 12 years, and it takes a lot to get my heart pumping on a fish,'' Paul said. ''And my heart was pounding on that one. I was pretty nervous.''
Eventually, he dropped his rod and jumped into about 2 feet of water to grab its tail, but the fish muscled out of his grasp, though not off the hook. After reeling it in again, Paul made another plunge, this time grabbing the fish's fat torso and wrestling it to the bank.
''Landing it from the bank, that's very unusual,'' said Ken Lacey, owner of Ken's Alaskan Tackle. ''Usually anything over 50 to 55 pounds, they lose.''
In an ordinary year, Paul's catch would be noteworthy, but this isn't a normal year. Fishing on the Kenai this summer has been subpar, even ''crummy,'' according to state fisheries biologist Tim McKinley. About 1,000 early-run kings have been caught so far. In a good year, twice that many would have been landed by now.
The record Kenai king salmon -- 97 pounds, 4 ounces -- was caught in 1985.
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