Mark Rogers, of San Antonio, Texas, and his guide, Jason McMurrian, hold up a Kenai king salmon caught Friday that weighed 74.4 pounds and measured 56 1/8 inches long with a girth of 33.5 inches. As of Friday, it was the largest king caught so far this season, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Photos by Joseph Robertia
Mark Rogers, from San Antonio, Texas, knows a thing or two about gambling. He's raked in a blackjack pot or two over the years and is no stranger to poker. While fishing the Kenai River recently he was able to put a few concept these games have taught him to use.
Rogers knows that to win big, you have to meet a challenge. He saw a 71.4-pound king salmon caught July 14 by LaDonna Camina of Washington, and a 72.7-pound king caught July 17 by Karen Alexander, and raised them with a 74.4-pound king he caught on Friday.
Robert Begich, the sportfish area manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna who sealed Roger's fish, said it was the largest Kenai king caught so far this season in terms of weight.
"It weighed 74.4 pounds and measured 56 1/8 inches in length and 33.5 inches in girth," Begich said.
Mark Rogers, of San Antonio, Texas, and his guide, Jason McMurrian, hold up a Kenai king salmon caught Friday that weighed 74.4 pounds and measured 56 1/8 inches long with a girth of 33.5 inches. As of Friday, it was the largest king caught so far this season, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. At top, Robert Begich, sport fish area manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, fills out the sealing paperwork for Rogers' king, but the colossal head of the fish makes human hands look small by comparison.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Any Kenai River king salmon 55 inches or longer must be sealed by Fish and Game staff within three days of harvest. Fish and Game staff typically measure weight and girth, as well as the distance from the fish's eye to the fork in its tail. Samples of the fish's scales are used to determine the time the fish has spent in freshwater and saltwater, and Fish and Game records the fish's color. A genetic sample also is taken, and the fish is given a seal number.
Jason McMurrian, a guide from Angler's Lodge in Sterling who put Rogers on the super-sized salmon, said that, much like a hand of poker, "He played it perfect," by keeping the line tight and not showing any anxiety while attempting to boat the behemoth.
Rogers said McMurrian deserved equal credit, because he selected the honey hole where the lunker was lying in wait.
"I couldn't have done it without him," Rogers said.
The location was one that in some ways defied conventional wisdom for king fishing at this time of year. While many other guides have been working the tidal zones of the lower Kenai River down near the mouth, McMurrian focused his client's efforts further upriver, above the Sterling Highway Bridge, in the Keystone area around River Mile 25. Instead of soaking eggs for bait, McMurrian had Rogers working a chrome Kwikfish lure through the deepwater holes.
Rogers said that when he saw his rod tip go down, he could feel his adrenaline level spike like he had been dealt a perfect hand.
"It's kind of a blur, but I remember fighting it for about 15 to 20 minutes, it kept circling and going under the boat. When I finally saw it I couldn't believe how big it was, and when we finally got it into the boat I was physically shaking," he said.
Rogers said he has done a lot of deep-sea fishing back home in Texas, but his past harvests pale in comparison to the pink meat rewards he will get from Friday's fishing foray.
"This is definitely the biggest freshwater fish I've ever caught. I caught a 150-pound black-tipped shark while fishing the Mississippi Gulf before, but this will be way better eating," Roger's said.
He would be eating the fish because his wife "wouldn't go for the big fish on the wall thing," McMurrian said. He speculated at least 40 pounds of filets would come off the king.
Rogers said so much meat headed for his freezer put him at ease for the rest of the trip, which still includes a Cook Inlet halibut charter and fly-out trip across the inlet for salmon.
"I was just hoping to have a good week and to be able to bring back enough salmon steaks to last a little while. Now that that is covered I can just relax for the rest of the trip," he said.
Just like with cards, "Sometimes it's just beginners luck," he said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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