Kenai River guide Joe Dilley holds up a king salmon caught by Pete Baldwin, left, of Scottsdale, Ariz., on Tuesday. Initially estimated at more than 80 pounds, the fish weighed in at 59.94 pounds on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's certified scales.
Photo by Will Morrow
From time to time some fishermen embellish tales of lunkers they have landed, but 29 pounds over the actual weight is more than a little discrepancy.
Yet, that's how far off a king salmon estimated to weigh 88 pounds and featured in last Wednesday's Clarion ended up being when brought to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to be sealed.
"On our certified scale it ended up weighing 59.94 pounds," said Tony Eskelin, a fisheries biologist at Fish and Game.
But was it a intentional whopper about a whopper or just an honest mistake? According to Joe Dilley of Soldotna the guide for Pete Baldwin of Scottsdale, Ariz., the fisherman who caught the now controversial king it was a case of the latter.
Dilley said the fish's fouled figure of 88 pounds may have been an error in attention to detail, rather than deliberate massaging of mathematics.
"I didn't personally have a chart with me, so I gave the measurements to a buddy on the water next to me, and he shouted back 88 pounds so that's what I went with," Dilley said, referring to the "How to Gauge Weight of Fish" chart in the back of most tide table booklets for Cook Inlet and Southcentral Alaska.
The way the chart works is the fish is measured from the tip of the nose to the fork of the tail to determine length, then measured around in front of the dorsal fin to determine the girth.
The girth measurement is squared, then multiplied by the length, then divided by 800 to determine the fish's estimated weight.
Dilley said Baldwin's king measured roughly 57 inches long and 33 inches in girth fresh out of the water, and 56 inches by 32 inches back on shore 6 1/2 hours later.
These latter figures would equate to a fish weighing 71.68 pounds on the weight chart for salmon more than the actual weight of 59 pounds, but also still under the estimated 88 pounds.
However, Dilley said that Kenai River guides sometimes use an equation of a fish's girth squared, multiplied by it's length, divided by 740 instead of 800. This would have yielded an estimated weight based on the out of the water measurements of 83.88 pounds, which Dilley said with several hours of drying and blood loss factored in could also have produced the discrepancy.
"I still stand by my original measurements, but I measured it five different times throughout the day and it got smaller on each one. Six hours of sitting in the fish box, losing blood, it definitely lost some size and weight," he said.
Another possibility is on the next page from the salmon weight chart of the tide booklet is the halibut length weight chart, and according to it's equation a fish with a length of 56 inches would weigh roughly 88 pounds, and according to Dilley this may also have been where an error occurred.
"I'm not sure what happened. I just know I'm not a liar," he said.
According to measurements taken at Fish and Game when the fish was brought in to be sealed, it did not meet the 55 inches or longer sealing requirement.
"By our measurements it was 53.5 inches in length and had a 30-inch girth," Eskelin said.
Anglers bringing in kings to be sealed, only to find out their fish is smaller than they thought, is quite common, according to Eskelin.
"I'd say half of the fish brought to us aren't 55 inches," he said.
In general, Eskelin added, less than 10 kings a year actually end up being 55 inches or longer, and while Baldwin's wasn't a trophy king, it was still the biggest fish he has seen brought in this year.
"It was still a nice Kenai king," he said.
Baldwin, was in another part of the state fishing and could not be reached for comment, but Dilley said his client wasn't disappointed to learn his king wasn't as heavy as everyone first thought.
"He was still thrilled and he should be. It was still a hell of a fish big, beautiful and awesome," Dilley said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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