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The fish that made Soldotna famous

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2001

On May 17, 1985, when Les Anderson set out to do a little fishing on the lower Kenai River, he couldn't have known that by the end of the day he would be famous for catching a world-record king salmon.

Not that Anderson was looking for fame. Sixty-seven at the time and a grandfather, he was polite and unassuming, the sort of man people call a "nice guy."

He had setnetted for salmon commercially on the east side of Cook Inlet in the 1950s, so big fish didn't impress him much. A co-owner of Peninsula Ford in Soldotna, he lived with his wife in a house near the river in a quiet Soldotna neighborhood.

Fame was the last thing on his mind.

Besides spending time with his family, one of Anderson's favorite things was fishing, usually with Bud Lofstedt, his brother-in-law. Lofstedt was with him on that fateful spring day.

It was early in the season for them to be fishing. Back then, few anglers tried for kings in the Kenai until Memorial Day weekend or later.

The day was cold. Chunks of ice still lined the banks, remnants of the winter just past. The water was so low that chances of banging a propeller on a rock were better than good. They saw only one other boat on the river.

At about 5 a.m., they launched Anderson's flat-bottomed,16-foot Monarch at The Pillars, 12.5 miles up-river from saltwater. Anderson had fished the Kenai for 16 years, and he knew this part of the river well. They began drift-fishing between there and Honeymoon Cove, about half a mile upstream.

Rather than the graphite-composite rod and bait-casting reel used by today's savvy Kenai king angler, Anderson had a fiberglass spinning rod and a spinning reel. His line and leader were 25-pound-test monofilament. His lure was a size 0, flame-orange and chartreuse-colored Spin-N-Glo. He had tied a treble hook to his leader and baited it with salmon roe.

The two men fished for close to an hour without luck. They were about 500 yards upstream from The Pillars when the fish struck Anderson's bait. He set the hook and the battle began.

Most kings, when hooked, will turn downstream and go with the current. This one was different. It headed upstream.

"We were hangin' on in back of it," Anderson said. "We could see its tail on top of the water as it was going up there, just workin' like a workhorse."

At Honeymoon Cove, the fish turned downstream and went deep, he said.

"We should have lost that fish," Lofstedt said, in a 1993 interview. "Les was running the motor when the fish hit, and when I took the motor, he fell over the boat seat.

"Then the fish jumped clear out of the water, over my line, and our lines were crossed for a while. It was in and out of the net three times. I don't know why the hook didn't catch in the net."

Realizing that the hefty salmon wasn't going to fit in their net, they beached the boat on a gravel bar across the river from The Pillars. From there, they worked the huge, tired king up onto the shore.

"Les sort of pulled, and I sort of pushed with the net, and we got him," Lofstedt said.

An hour had passed since the fish was hooked. It was a big one, but these men had seen big kings before. At the time, Anderson said he thought it was in the 60- to 70-pound range. They put it in the boat and went back to fishing.

They fished for three more hours before calling it quits. On the way home, Anderson stopped to show his first king of the year to the employees at Peninsula Ford. He was told that it should be weighed to see if it was a world-record king.

At that time, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) "All Tackle" world record for king salmon was held by Howard Rider of Juneau. Rider had taken a 93-pounder in Kelp Bay, at Baranof Island, in 1977.

Anderson first hung his fish on scales that hadn't been certified for 1985. They showed that the fish had beaten the record by 3 pounds. To qualify for the IGFA record, the fish had to be weighed on a certified scale. Anderson took the fish to Echo Lake Lockers, where its official weight was 97 pounds, 4 ounces.

By then, the huge chinook had been out of the water for about six hours. Knowledgeable anglers later commented that it had dehydrated during that time, and had probably weighed at least 100 pounds when caught.

Biologists who took a scale sample from the fish said it had been at sea for five years and was 7 years old. They said its size was most likely due to genetics. It had eaten well, they said.

News of the record-breaking king spread far and fast, even attracting attention from Outside. Anderson remembers talking to reporters from Vancouver, B.C., and Idaho, among others.

The fish apparently was hooked and landed inside the farflung Kenai city limits. On the other hand, the spot in question is a couple miles closer to Soldotna City Hall than to Kenai City Hall, as the crow flies. Whatever, Soldotna got virtually all the publicity.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has capitalized on its link to king salmon ever since. A large sign featuring a king salmon now signals Sterling Highway travelers that they are entering Soldotna. The theme for Soldotna's 1995 Progress Days celebration was "King Salmon Capital of the World."

Previously only a wide spot in the road, Soldotna became a destination, "the place where the world-record king salmon was caught." You seldom hear Soldotna referred to as "Slow-dotna," anymore. And it's worth noting that, politically and economically, Kenai has remained mainly a commercial-fishing town, while Soldotna increasingly caters to sport-fishing interests.

Each year, anglers from all over the world come to the Kenai River with hopes of catching a bigger one, or at least a big one. And each year, thousands of people ogle the fiberglass replica of the "king of kings" at the Soldotna Visitor Information Center.

Though a few king salmon weighing more than 90 pounds have been caught since 1985, Anderson's IGFA "All Tackle" world record still stands. Even now, he gets four or five calls a year from writers and reporters who ask questions and want a photo of him and his record king. He wishes they would stop. He has had enough fame, he said.

"Gosh, one afternoon was all it took," he said, recently. "I had enough then, the day it happened. It was a rainy day. They had me out there, holding that fish up while they were shooting pictures."

A great-grandfather now, in his early 80s, he hopes someone tops his record soon.

"I hope this is the year, and that it's somebody from here," he said. "I'd even allow them to be from Kenai."

Anderson humbly accepted the honor of being grand marshal for this year's Progress Day Parade, to be held in Soldotna on Saturday. Who better than the man who caught the fish that put Soldotna on the map?

BYLINE1:By LES PALMER

BYLINE2:For the Peninsula Clarion

On May 17, 1985, when Les Anderson set out to do a little fishing on the lower Kenai River, he couldn't have known that by the end of the day he would be famous for catching a world-record king salmon.

Not that Anderson was looking for fame. Sixty-seven at the time and a grandfather, he was polite and unassuming, the sort of man people call a "nice guy."

He had setnetted for salmon commercially on the east side of Cook Inlet in the 1950s, so big fish didn't impress him much. A co-owner of Peninsula Ford in Soldotna, he lived with his wife in a house near the river in a quiet Soldotna neighborhood.

Fame was the last thing on his mind.

Besides spending time with his family, one of Anderson's favorite things was fishing, usually with Bud Lofstedt, his brother-in-law. Lofstedt was with him on that fateful spring day.

It was early in the season for them to be fishing. Back then, few anglers tried for kings in the Kenai until Memorial Day weekend or later.

The day was cold. Chunks of ice still lined the banks, remnants of the winter just past. The water was so low that chances of banging a propeller on a rock were better than good. They saw only one other boat on the river.

At about 5 a.m., they launched Anderson's flat-bottomed,16-foot Monarch at The Pillars, 12.5 miles up-river from saltwater. Anderson had fished the Kenai for 16 years, and he knew this part of the river well. They began drift-fishing between there and Honeymoon Cove, about half a mile upstream.

Rather than the graphite-composite rod and bait-casting reel used by today's savvy Kenai king angler, Anderson had a fiberglass spinning rod and a spinning reel. His line and leader were 25-pound-test monofilament. His lure was a size 0, flame-orange and chartreuse-colored Spin-N-Glo. He had tied a treble hook to his leader and baited it with salmon roe.

The two men fished for close to an hour without luck. They were about 500 yards upstream from The Pillars when the fish struck Anderson's bait. He set the hook and the battle began.

Most kings, when hooked, will turn downstream and go with the current. This one was different. It headed upstream.

"We were hangin' on in back of it," Anderson said. "We could see its tail on top of the water as it was going up there, just workin' like a workhorse."

At Honeymoon Cove, the fish turned downstream and went deep, he said.

"We should have lost that fish," Lofstedt said, in a 1993 interview. "Les was running the motor when the fish hit, and when I took the motor, he fell over the boat seat.

"Then the fish jumped clear out of the water, over my line, and our lines were crossed for a while. It was in and out of the net three times. I don't know why the hook didn't catch in the net."

Realizing that the hefty salmon wasn't going to fit in their net, they beached the boat on a gravel bar across the river from The Pillars. From there, they worked the huge, tired king up onto the shore.

"Les sort of pulled, and I sort of pushed with the net, and we got him," Lofstedt said.

An hour had passed since the fish was hooked. It was a big one, but these men had seen big kings before. At the time, Anderson said he thought it was in the 60- to 70-pound range. They put it in the boat and went back to fishing.

They fished for three more hours before calling it quits. On the way home, Anderson stopped to show his first king of the year to the employees at Peninsula Ford. He was told that it should be weighed to see if it was a world-record king.

At that time, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) "All Tackle" world record for king salmon was held by Howard Rider of Juneau. Rider had taken a 93-pounder in Kelp Bay, at Baranof Island, in 1977.

Anderson first hung his fish on scales that hadn't been certified for 1985. They showed that the fish had beaten the record by 3 pounds. To qualify for the IGFA record, the fish had to be weighed on a certified scale. Anderson took the fish to Echo Lake Lockers, where its official weight was 97 pounds, 4 ounces.

By then, the huge chinook had been out of the water for about six hours. Knowledgeable anglers later commented that it had dehydrated during that time, and had probably weighed at least 100 pounds when caught.

Biologists who took a scale sample from the fish said it had been at sea for five years and was 7 years old. They said its size was most likely due to genetics. It had eaten well, they said.

News of the record-breaking king spread far and fast, even attracting attention from Outside. Anderson remembers talking to reporters from Vancouver, B.C., and Idaho, among others.

The fish apparently was hooked and landed inside the farflung Kenai city limits. On the other hand, the spot in question is a couple miles closer to Soldotna City Hall than to Kenai City Hall, as the crow flies. Whatever, Soldotna got virtually all the publicity.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has capitalized on its link to king salmon ever since. A large sign featuring a king salmon now signals Sterling Highway travelers that they are entering Soldotna. The theme for Soldotna's 1995 Progress Days celebration was "King Salmon Capital of the World."

Previously only a wide spot in the road, Soldotna became a destination, "the place where the world-record king salmon was caught." You seldom hear Soldotna referred to as "Slow-dotna," anymore. And it's worth noting that, politically and economically, Kenai has remained mainly a commercial-fishing town, while Soldotna increasingly caters to sport-fishing interests.

Each year, anglers from all over the world come to the Kenai River with hopes of catching a bigger one, or at least a big one. And each year, thousands of people ogle the fiberglass replica of the "king of kings" at the Soldotna Visitor Information Center.

Though a few king salmon weighing more than 90 pounds have been caught since 1985, Anderson's IGFA "All Tackle" world record still stands. Even now, he gets four or five calls a year from writers and reporters who ask questions and want a photo of him and his record king. He wishes they would stop. He has had enough fame, he said.

"Gosh, one afternoon was all it took," he said, recently. "I had enough then, the day it happened. It was a rainy day. They had me out there, holding that fish up while they were shooting pictures."

A great-grandfather now, in his early 80s, he hopes someone tops his record soon.

"I hope this is the year, and that it's somebody from here," he said. "I'd even allow them to be from Kenai."

Anderson humbly accepted the honor of being grand marshal for this year's Progress Day Parade, to be held in Soldotna on Saturday. Who better than the man who caught the fish that put Soldotna on the map?

CREDIT:Photo by M. Scott Moon

CAPTION:Les Anderson stands next to a cardboard cutout photo of himself with his world-record king salmon on display at the Soldotna Visitors Information Center. A mount of the fish is behind him.

BYLINE1:By LES PALMER

BYLINE2:For the Peninsula Clarion

On May 17, 1985, when Les Anderson set out to do a little fishing on the lower Kenai River, he couldn't have known that by the end of the day he would be famous for catching a world-record king salmon.

Not that Anderson was looking for fame. Sixty-seven at the time and a grandfather, he was polite and unassuming, the sort of man people call a "nice guy."

He had setnetted for salmon commercially on the east side of Cook Inlet in the 1950s, so big fish didn't impress him much. A co-owner of Peninsula Ford in Soldotna, he lived with his wife in a house near the river in a quiet Soldotna neighborhood.

Fame was the last thing on his mind.

Besides spending time with his family, one of Anderson's favorite things was fishing, usually with Bud Lofstedt, his brother-in-law. Lofstedt was with him on that fateful spring day.

It was early in the season for them to be fishing. Back then, few anglers tried for kings in the Kenai until Memorial Day weekend or later.

The day was cold. Chunks of ice still lined the banks, remnants of the winter just past. The water was so low that chances of banging a propeller on a rock were better than good. They saw only one other boat on the river.

At about 5 a.m., they launched Anderson's flat-bottomed,16-foot Monarch at The Pillars, 12.5 miles up-river from saltwater. Anderson had fished the Kenai for 16 years, and he knew this part of the river well. They began drift-fishing between there and Honeymoon Cove, about half a mile upstream.

Rather than the graphite-composite rod and bait-casting reel used by today's savvy Kenai king angler, Anderson had a fiberglass spinning rod and a spinning reel. His line and leader were 25-pound-test monofilament. His lure was a size 0, flame-orange and chartreuse-colored Spin-N-Glo. He had tied a treble hook to his leader and baited it with salmon roe.

The two men fished for close to an hour without luck. They were about 500 yards upstream from The Pillars when the fish struck Anderson's bait. He set the hook and the battle began.

Most kings, when hooked, will turn downstream and go with the current. This one was different. It headed upstream.

"We were hangin' on in back of it," Anderson said. "We could see its tail on top of the water as it was going up there, just workin' like a workhorse."

At Honeymoon Cove, the fish turned downstream and went deep, he said.

"We should have lost that fish," Lofstedt said, in a 1993 interview. "Les was running the motor when the fish hit, and when I took the motor, he fell over the boat seat.

"Then the fish jumped clear out of the water, over my line, and our lines were crossed for a while. It was in and out of the net three times. I don't know why the hook didn't catch in the net."

Realizing that the hefty salmon wasn't going to fit in their net, they beached the boat on a gravel bar across the river from The Pillars. From there, they worked the huge, tired king up onto the shore.

"Les sort of pulled, and I sort of pushed with the net, and we got him," Lofstedt said.

An hour had passed since the fish was hooked. It was a big one, but these men had seen big kings before. At the time, Anderson said he thought it was in the 60- to 70-pound range. They put it in the boat and went back to fishing.

They fished for three more hours before calling it quits. On the way home, Anderson stopped to show his first king of the year to the employees at Peninsula Ford. He was told that it should be weighed to see if it was a world-record king.

At that time, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) "All Tackle" world record for king salmon was held by Howard Rider of Juneau. Rider had taken a 93-pounder in Kelp Bay, at Baranof Island, in 1977.

Anderson first hung his fish on scales that hadn't been certified for 1985. They showed that the fish had beaten the record by 3 pounds. To qualify for the IGFA record, the fish had to be weighed on a certified scale. Anderson took the fish to Echo Lake Lockers, where its official weight was 97 pounds, 4 ounces.

By then, the huge chinook had been out of the water for about six hours. Knowledgeable anglers later commented that it had dehydrated during that time, and had probably weighed at least 100 pounds when caught.

Biologists who took a scale sample from the fish said it had been at sea for five years and was 7 years old. They said its size was most likely due to genetics. It had eaten well, they said.

News of the record-breaking king spread far and fast, even attracting attention from Outside. Anderson remembers talking to reporters from Vancouver, B.C., and Idaho, among others.

The fish apparently was hooked and landed inside the farflung Kenai city limits. On the other hand, the spot in question is a couple miles closer to Soldotna City Hall than to Kenai City Hall, as the crow flies. Whatever, Soldotna got virtually all the publicity.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has capitalized on its link to king salmon ever since. A large sign featuring a king salmon now signals Sterling Highway travelers that they are entering Soldotna. The theme for Soldotna's 1995 Progress Days celebration was "King Salmon Capital of the World."

Previously only a wide spot in the road, Soldotna became a destination, "the place where the world-record king salmon was caught." You seldom hear Soldotna referred to as "Slow-dotna," anymore. And it's worth noting that, politically and economically, Kenai has remained mainly a commercial-fishing town, while Soldotna increasingly caters to sport-fishing interests.

Each year, anglers from all over the world come to the Kenai River with hopes of catching a bigger one, or at least a big one. And each year, thousands of people ogle the fiberglass replica of the "king of kings" at the Soldotna Visitor Information Center.

Though a few king salmon weighing more than 90 pounds have been caught since 1985, Anderson's IGFA "All Tackle" world record still stands. Even now, he gets four or five calls a year from writers and reporters who ask questions and want a photo of him and his record king. He wishes they would stop. He has had enough fame, he said.

"Gosh, one afternoon was all it took," he said, recently. "I had enough then, the day it happened. It was a rainy day. They had me out there, holding that fish up while they were shooting pictures."

A great-grandfather now, in his early 80s, he hopes someone tops his record soon.

"I hope this is the year, and that it's somebody from here," he said. "I'd even allow them to be from Kenai."

Anderson humbly accepted the honor of being grand marshal for this year's Progress Day Parade, to be held in Soldotna on Saturday. Who better than the man who caught the fish that put Soldotna on the map?

BYLINE1:By LES PALMER

BYLINE2:For the Peninsula Clarion

On May 17, 1985, when Les Anderson set out to do a little fishing on the lower Kenai River, he couldn't have known that by the end of the day he would be famous for catching a world-record king salmon.

Not that Anderson was looking for fame. Sixty-seven at the time and a grandfather, he was polite and unassuming, the sort of man people call a "nice guy."

He had setnetted for salmon commercially on the east side of Cook Inlet in the 1950s, so big fish didn't impress him much. A co-owner of Peninsula Ford in Soldotna, he lived with his wife in a house near the river in a quiet Soldotna neighborhood.

Fame was the last thing on his mind.

Besides spending time with his family, one of Anderson's favorite things was fishing, usually with Bud Lofstedt, his brother-in-law. Lofstedt was with him on that fateful spring day.

It was early in the season for them to be fishing. Back then, few anglers tried for kings in the Kenai until Memorial Day weekend or later.

The day was cold. Chunks of ice still lined the banks, remnants of the winter just past. The water was so low that chances of banging a propeller on a rock were better than good. They saw only one other boat on the river.

At about 5 a.m., they launched Anderson's flat-bottomed,16-foot Monarch at The Pillars, 12.5 miles up-river from saltwater. Anderson had fished the Kenai for 16 years, and he knew this part of the river well. They began drift-fishing between there and Honeymoon Cove, about half a mile upstream.

Rather than the graphite-composite rod and bait-casting reel used by today's savvy Kenai king angler, Anderson had a fiberglass spinning rod and a spinning reel. His line and leader were 25-pound-test monofilament. His lure was a size 0, flame-orange and chartreuse-colored Spin-N-Glo. He had tied a treble hook to his leader and baited it with salmon roe.

The two men fished for close to an hour without luck. They were about 500 yards upstream from The Pillars when the fish struck Anderson's bait. He set the hook and the battle began.

Most kings, when hooked, will turn downstream and go with the current. This one was different. It headed upstream.

"We were hangin' on in back of it," Anderson said. "We could see its tail on top of the water as it was going up there, just workin' like a workhorse."

At Honeymoon Cove, the fish turned downstream and went deep, he said.

"We should have lost that fish," Lofstedt said, in a 1993 interview. "Les was running the motor when the fish hit, and when I took the motor, he fell over the boat seat.

"Then the fish jumped clear out of the water, over my line, and our lines were crossed for a while. It was in and out of the net three times. I don't know why the hook didn't catch in the net."

Realizing that the hefty salmon wasn't going to fit in their net, they beached the boat on a gravel bar across the river from The Pillars. From there, they worked the huge, tired king up onto the shore.

"Les sort of pulled, and I sort of pushed with the net, and we got him," Lofstedt said.

An hour had passed since the fish was hooked. It was a big one, but these men had seen big kings before. At the time, Anderson said he thought it was in the 60- to 70-pound range. They put it in the boat and went back to fishing.

They fished for three more hours before calling it quits. On the way home, Anderson stopped to show his first king of the year to the employees at Peninsula Ford. He was told that it should be weighed to see if it was a world-record king.

At that time, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) "All Tackle" world record for king salmon was held by Howard Rider of Juneau. Rider had taken a 93-pounder in Kelp Bay, at Baranof Island, in 1977.

Anderson first hung his fish on scales that hadn't been certified for 1985. They showed that the fish had beaten the record by 3 pounds. To qualify for the IGFA record, the fish had to be weighed on a certified scale. Anderson took the fish to Echo Lake Lockers, where its official weight was 97 pounds, 4 ounces.

By then, the huge chinook had been out of the water for about six hours. Knowledgeable anglers later commented that it had dehydrated during that time, and had probably weighed at least 100 pounds when caught.

Biologists who took a scale sample from the fish said it had been at sea for five years and was 7 years old. They said its size was most likely due to genetics. It had eaten well, they said.

News of the record-breaking king spread far and fast, even attracting attention from Outside. Anderson remembers talking to reporters from Vancouver, B.C., and Idaho, among others.

The fish apparently was hooked and landed inside the farflung Kenai city limits. On the other hand, the spot in question is a couple miles closer to Soldotna City Hall than to Kenai City Hall, as the crow flies. Whatever, Soldotna got virtually all the publicity.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has capitalized on its link to king salmon ever since. A large sign featuring a king salmon now signals Sterling Highway travelers that they are entering Soldotna. The theme for Soldotna's 1995 Progress Days celebration was "King Salmon Capital of the World."

Previously only a wide spot in the road, Soldotna became a destination, "the place where the world-record king salmon was caught." You seldom hear Soldotna referred to as "Slow-dotna," anymore. And it's worth noting that, politically and economically, Kenai has remained mainly a commercial-fishing town, while Soldotna increasingly caters to sport-fishing interests.

Each year, anglers from all over the world come to the Kenai River with hopes of catching a bigger one, or at least a big one. And each year, thousands of people ogle the fiberglass replica of the "king of kings" at the Soldotna Visitor Information Center.

Though a few king salmon weighing more than 90 pounds have been caught since 1985, Anderson's IGFA "All Tackle" world record still stands. Even now, he gets four or five calls a year from writers and reporters who ask questions and want a photo of him and his record king. He wishes they would stop. He has had enough fame, he said.

"Gosh, one afternoon was all it took," he said, recently. "I had enough then, the day it happened. It was a rainy day. They had me out there, holding that fish up while they were shooting pictures."

A great-grandfather now, in his early 80s, he hopes someone tops his record soon.

"I hope this is the year, and that it's somebody from here," he said. "I'd even allow them to be from Kenai."

Anderson humbly accepted the honor of being grand marshal for this year's Progress Day Parade, to be held in Soldotna on Saturday. Who better than the man who caught the fish that put Soldotna on the map?



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