Zac Lloyd of Zac's Guide Service and Spencer Priest, 16, of Springville, Utah, display the 88-pound king hooked by priest on the Kenai River on Friday.
Submitted photo courtesy of Jeff
The Priest family had a great trip to the Kenai Peninsula this week, taking in the sights and catching a few fish. Oh, and finishing up their week in Alaska by catching an 88-pound Kenai River king salmon Friday was pretty nice, too.
"It's the peak. It was amazing. I could not imagine anything better," said Spencer Priest, 16, of Springville, Utah, while exchanging high-fives with other guests at St. Theresa's Lakeside Resort, where he was staying with his family.
Priest, along with his father, Jeff, grandfather, Jim, and 14-year-old brother, Andy, began the last day of his Alaska vacation by getting out on the water early with Zac Lloyd of Zac's Guide Service. The party spent a slow couple of hours, catching and releasing one small king, before Spencer noticed a tug. The big hit came just below the Pasture, about 7 miles from the mouth of the river.
"At first, I thought I was snagging on something. I picked up the rod and Zac said, 'That's a fish,'" Priest said.
Priest said his guide was a flurry of activity, helping to make sure the hook was set and monitoring his fight with the fish.
"It only lasted about seven or eight minutes I thought it was longer than that," Priest said.
Priest said the fish made a few zigs and zags, but never made a big run. Still, it took quite a bit on Priest's part to get the fish up to the boat.
"I was like, 'Jeez, I hope the line doesn't break. We've gotten it this far,'" he said.
"... We pulled it in the boat. It started flopping around and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this thing is a monster.' This is the kind of thing you see in pamphlets and ads, 'Come to Alaska.'"
Once the fish was in the boat, Priest said, they noted another hook in its mouth and speculated that perhaps another angler had fought the fish.
The king measured 57 7/8 inches long and had a girth of 35 inches. By comparison, Les Anderson's world record king salmon, caught in 1985, weighed 97 pounds, 4 ounces, with a length of 58 1/4 inches and a girth of 37 1/4 inches. The Priests stopped at the closest certified scale to weigh the fish once they got off the water before taking it to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Soldotna to have it sealed. By the time they got there, the fish already had dropped a pound and a half as it started to dry out.
Priest said he had gotten the feel of reeling in a large fish while fishing for halibut Thursday, but the 40-pounders on Cook Inlet just didn't compare to what he felt tugging at the other end of his line. He chalked his success up to beginner's luck, saying that prior to his trip, he had done a little fishing when he was 5 or 6 but didn't remember the experience. This one is likely to be more memorable.
"I'd have been happy to come back with a 20-pounder, just to experience catching one, then to come back with a whale," Jeff Priest said. "It's even better that my son caught it, so he gets to have that experience."
The Priest family was on a boys' trip to Alaska and Spencer said they've enjoyed it.
"This wasn't a trip where you go with Mom and she packs your bag and makes sure you brought soap and a toothbrush," Spencer Priest said. "Man, was it worth it. It was amazing. I've been able to spend time with my grandfather, which is nice, and my brother and we actually get along, and with my dad. It's fabulous. This is something we've wanted to do for years, we just wanted to wait until we were big enough."
Priest said there is a spot over the mantel for a nice fiberglass mount of the fish, and duplicate mounts are in the works for Lloyd and Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing.
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