World-record fish caught in Homer

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2007


  Robbie Hammond poses next to his 82.6 pound world-record lingcod caught Friday about 80 miles south of Ninilchik. Photo provided

Robbie Hammond poses next to his 82.6 pound world-record lingcod caught Friday about 80 miles south of Ninilchik.

Photo provided

A 20-year-old angler on his first fishing trip to Alaska caught a world-record lingcod Friday about 80 miles south of Ninilchik.

The large female, caught by Robbie Hammond from Discovery Bay, Calif., weighed 82.6 pounds and measured 55 inches long. It beat the old record fish, caught in 2002 by Charles Curney, by just 1 pound.

"I feel very lucky," said Hammond, who also caught a 124-pound halibut Thursday.

Hammond, a college student in California, was fishing with his dad, Allen, and four of Allen's friends on the one-week trip with Captain Steve's Saltwater Charters and Lodge in Ninilchik. Robbie said he was a last-minute addition to the trip after the fifth of Allen's friends couldn't make it.

His luck continued Friday when the group began fishing near the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, and the action started heating up.

"Three rods went down at one time," said Capt. Steve Smith.

Robbie and a friend had hooked into fish at the front of the boat, while Allen had simultaneously caught a monster at the back.

Thinking Allen was hooked into the trophy fish of the three, Smith put the boat in reverse in order to aid its landing.

After chasing Allen's fish for about an hour, the crew finally landed what turned out to be a 210-pound halibut.

Smith then turned his attention back to the front of the boat, where Robbie was still fighting his big fish. As soon as Robbie's lingcod reached the surface, Smith got his first good look.

"I said, 'Holy cow, I think you did it,'" Smith said.

After landing the lingcod and measuring it, Smith knew Robbie had caught something special.

"I said 'This is the one, you got the world record right here on the boat,'" Smith said. "The poor dad with the halibut didn't get any recognition for it."

After landing the big halibut, the world-record lingcod and another 50-pound lingcod, Smith headed north toward Ninilchik and began calling around to find out how to officially measure the lingcod.

If it was going to count in the record books, the fish would have to be weighed on official scales and paperwork would need to be filled out.

After weighing the fish unofficially at his scales in Ninilchik, Smith grabbed the lingcod, Allen and Robbie and drove down to Homer to meet with Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Charlie Stock. There they drove to the Homer Halibut Derby Headquarters on the Homer Spit for an official weigh-in.

"He was pretty excited when he got here," Stock said. "It was the biggest lingcod I've ever seen. You could put a basketball in its mouth."

Generally, fish tend to lose moisture and weight the longer they are removed from water.

Nearly five hours after it was caught, including an 80-mile boat ride and a 40-mile car ride in a fish tote, the lingcod still weighed 82.6 pounds.

According to Fish and Game, lingcod are not true cods, but are greenlings and can be found from the Aleutian Islands south to Baja, Calif.

They are common throughout Southeast Alaska, the outer Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak and Prince William Sound and are generally found on rocky reefs from 30 to 330 feet deep.

Lingcod are characterized by a large mouth with 18 sharp teeth and are voracious eaters.

Like halibut, the females of the species are bigger. Stock said the fish likely was about 25 years old.

Back in California, Robbie said he plans to have the fish mounted. He's already been interviewed by a couple of California radio shows and newspapers.

"I absolutely had a great time up there," he said. "My friends are pretty jealous."

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