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Big fish bring visitors

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2003

Halibut is the largest flatfish in the sea and a prize numerous tourists set their sights on while visiting Alaska.

Many angling enthusiasts hope to set a hook in one of these big barn doors that reside deep in the waters of Cook Inlet.

For those lucky enough to have hooked into a trophy size fish, the whine of the reel is a familiar sound.

"It was everything I expected and more," said Rion Taylor. "Reeling one in was both exhausting and exhilarating."

Taylor and his wife, along with his in-laws, came up from Georgia to attend a conference in Anchor-age, but Taylor and his father-in-law, Bill Getha, made sure to schedule a few days on the Kenai Peninsula to pursue halibut fishing.

The two fished out of Anchor Point with Catch Alaska Charters. Out on the calm waters of the inlet they turned their dreams of catching a flat fighter into reality.

"It was the most fun I've had fishing," Taylor said. "If you can call it fishing, because it was more like catching. There was no sitting around at all, just fish one after another."

Getha agreed that the fishing had exceeded his expectations, as well.

"I was impressed with the sheer numbers of halibut we were able to catch," he said.

Size does matter, according to Taylor. He, like many others, facetiously hoped to break the state record for halibut -- a 459-pounder.

Of course, fish this size are extremely rare, and Taylor went home with his biggest fish of the day that weighed in at more than 60 pounds -- a catch he was proud of.

"It was the biggest fish I've ever caught," he said. "That's what I think is good about halibut fishing -- not only is it fun and the fish good to eat, but you get so much of it."

Both he and Getha said they would not only take a halibut charter again, but they also would recommend it to anyone looking for something exciting to do while vacationing on the peninsula.

"You get your money's worth," said Getha, and he easily summarized the key to a successful halibut charter.

"Find a reputable guide," he said.

Getha believes it's important to catch fish and have a good time -- two things that aren't necessarily synonymous.

"Our guide was great," Getha said of Hans Bilben. "You could tell he loved what he did and wasn't just in it for the money like some guides are."

Getha also spoke highly of the guide's practice of catch and release of smaller halibut, which allows clients to continually try and catch the biggest fish they can until they hit their two-fish bag limit.

"I felt good about the fish he released," he said. "(Bilben) had good ethics and handled the fish conscientiously. They were in good shape when he released them."

Getha also had some advice to anyone thinking about booking a charter.

"For those who are flying in and flying out like we are, you really need to book a reputable guide in advance to maximize the experience."



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