David McCoy, right, of Junction City, Ore., shows off the 86.5-pound king salmon he caught on the Kenai River on Wednesday afternoon with guide Danny Paulk, left, after the fish was weighed at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Wednesday was shaping up to be a slow albeit gorgeous fishing day on the Kenai River for David McCoy.
McCoy, of Junction City, Ore., and fishing buddies Dennis Faulhaber and Mel and Greg Petersen, decided to take a break for lunch.
Following their meal, the group headed back out on the river with guide Danny Paulk of the Kenai River King Guide Service.
“It was nothing all day long, real slow. Then we went and got lunch, came back out, switched to eggs and got that hit,” McCoy said Wednesday afternoon while watching an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist take measurements of the king salmon on the other end of “that hit.”
The specifics on the fish, as recorded by Fish and Game biologist Tony Eskelin, include: a weight of 86 pounds, 8 ounces; a length of 57 inches; and a girth of 34 inches.
McCoy said he was visiting Alaska and fishing for the fourth year with Paulk, and his biggest previous catch on the Kenai was a 54-pound king. He fishes for trout at home and has had the opportunity to do some fishing in Mexico, but said the group never thought they’d do better than the 60-pound king Faulhaber caught on one trip.
McCoy said he couldn’t tell how big the fish on the end of his line was while he was reeling it in, but said it did feel different than fish he’s landed before.
“It never did come up to the top. It never did jump out of the water,” McCoy said. “It took off and, wow, it kept going and going.
“What I noticed about this fish is it was strong, like most others, but it was strong for a long time. It ran the line right off, over and over.”
McCoy said it took about half an hour to boat the fish, and said that Paulk did a masterful job avoiding snags and maneuvering around rocks as they drifted downstream with the fish.
“The guide definitely makes the difference. You’ve got to have somebody that knows what they’re doing,” McCoy said.
In addition to weight, girth and length, Eskelin said Fish and Game also measures the length from eye to the fork of the fish’s tail, which is used to compensate for the elongated beaks male salmon grow as they enter freshwater to spawn.
Samples of the fish’s scales are used to determine the time the fish has spent in fresh water 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.
“We just want to get an idea of how many big kings are being caught,” Eskelin said.
The king salmon record is 97 pounds, 4 ounces, caught by Les Anderson in 1985. On the Kenai River, king salmon bigger than 75 pounds are considered trophy-sized.
All Kenai River kings measuring 55 inches or longer are required to be sealed within three days of harvest by Fish and Game staff at the Soldotna office at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road.
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