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Teen on trip fit for a king

15-year-old lands 75-pound salmon

Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2006


  Michael Romeo, 15, of California, poses next to the 75-pound king salmon he caught on the Kenai River on Saturday. Romeo is 6-foot-1. Photo courtesy of Tina Romeo

Michael Romeo, 15, of California, poses next to the 75-pound king salmon he caught on the Kenai River on Saturday. Romeo is 6-foot-1.

Photo courtesy of Tina Romeo

The 15-year-old boy’s name is Michael Romeo, but perhaps he should change it to Harry Houdini or David Copperfield after what he did Saturday morning.

Romeo, while fishing with two family members from Outside, caught a 75-pound king salmon on the Kenai River less than 24 hours after stepping off the plane — and he did it without a guide.

“It’s the fish of a lifetime,” he said.

Romeo, on vacation here from California, caught the fish while back-bouncing across from River Quest RV Resort. He said he was surprised to set into the chinook based on the large number of boats on the water and how few had nets in the air.

“It was pretty quiet. There were about 15 to 20 boats around, but nobody was really catching fish,” he said.

Then, on his second drift, Romeo’s rod started to twitch and bend wildly.

“At first I just thought it was a snag, but my uncle and cousin both said, ‘No, it’s a fish! Bring it up!’” he said.

Romeo grabbed the rod, set the hook and began to reel feverishly, but the leviathan dove deeper into the silty, fast-flowing water.

“I fought it all around the boat. It would start to come up and then go on another run. It took a half an hour before I got it to the surface,” he said.

Romeo’s teenage arms were tingling with fatigue, but he said he wouldn’t quit.

“I knew I could get it,” he said.

Finally the behemoth breached and Romeo couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the champagne-colored slab of salmon.

“I knew it was big, but didn’t know how big, but when it hit the surface I started to think it was at least in the 60 pound range,” he said.

Back on shore, the fish proved to be even bigger than Romeo expected, weighing in at a solid 75 pounds.

“It was a dinosaur,” said the boy’s mother, Tina Romeo.

She said she was proud of her son, especially since he doesn’t always come back from a fishing trip with his full bag limit.

“They usually come back empty-handed, so the fact that they caught something, and something this big, it was incredible,” she said.

Romeo plans on more fishing — for sockeye and halibut — during the remainder of his 10-day trip, but said he’s not holding his breath that he’ll catch anything that could compare to his king.

“It’ll be hard to top this fish for the rest of my life, let alone the rest of this trip,” he said.

Romeo said he plans to have his fish mounted so he can hang his trophy on the wall back in California.

“It was my first king and the biggest fish I’ve ever caught, so I want to remember it,” he said.

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