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Beast fish hides near Unalaska

Posted: Friday, September 01, 2000

ANCHORAGE -- Unalaska's reputation for big halibut brings an interesting breed of angler to its remote Aleutian Island waters -- the record seeker.

Of course, it makes sense that anglers come to Dutch Harbor in search of record halibut. After all, the world's largest sport-caught halibut -- a 459-pound monster caught by Jack Tragis of Fairbanks in 1996 -- was taken from the area's icy waters.

This summer, three intrepid anglers vacationing in Unalaska cracked the International Sport Fish Association's record books in various categories.

Under blue skies on Aug. 10, Zak DeBakker of Olympia, Wash., landed a 185-pound halibut to take the world junior record for kids under 16.

Having already bought his Unalaska World Record Halibut Derby ticket, DeBakker was hoping for a big fish. But he said he had no idea he would come home with a record fish.

''Whenever I go out, I want a big fish,'' DeBakker said. ''Of my two-fish limit, I'm always hoping for an eater and a big one. That day, I caught like an 80-pounder and the 185-pounder.

''I loved that day. I wish they all could be like that.''

DeBakker, 15, came to Unalaska to visit his grandfather, state Rep. Carl Moses. He said, simply, it now is his favorite place on earth.

Another angler, Kathy Rounds of San Diego, hooked a record two days before DeBakker.

A fishing industry professional, Rounds came to Unalaska in August intending to break the women's record for halibut caught on 20-pound test line.

In what was Rounds' third trip to the Aleutians, she succeeded in her quest, landing a 285-pound fish and besting the old record by more than 100 pounds.

Meanwhile, in June, the Small-Fry record for kids under 10 fell due to considerable effort by 9-year-old Jake Cashen of Wasco, Calif.

Unalaska World Record Halibut Derby official Mya Renken said the boy's grandfather was interested in going for a record from the outset. Renken recalled that charter operator Andy McCracken, skipper of the Grand Aleutian, said the trick wasn't finding a fish that would break the old Small-Fry record of 22 pounds. The real trick was finding a halibut small enough for the pint-sized angler to reel up unassisted.

In the first attempt, Cashen hooked a 158-pound halibut, but after more than 30 minutes, he handed it off to an adult.

Before long, Cashen hooked another big fish. Again, the boy battled for 30 minutes.

Only this time, he landed the lunker -- a 113-pounder.

All of the records are pending, Renken said, waiting to be filed and processed by the International Game Fish Association.

While they are legitimate records, none of the fish come close to the halibut leading the Unalaska derby -- a whopping 382-pounder, which measured 91 inches, caught by Dusty Copeland of Fairbanks on Aug. 4.



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