Eye of the record holder: 'Pretty ugly' pink salmon turns out to be a beauty

Posted: Friday, September 03, 2010

Every Alaskan knows pink salmon are the last thing an angler wants on the line.

Photo Courtesy Of Mark Sauter
Photo Courtesy Of Mark Sauter
Philip Block of Niceville, Fla. displays his record-breaking pink salmon. The fish weighed 10.92 pounds and was landed on a fly rod with a 12-pound tippet.

But when Philip Block of Niceville, Fla., a former Anchorage resident, landed a pink last week while fishing for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden, he was ecstatic.

It wasn't just any humpy. Turns out it is worthy of an International Game Fish Association world record for the biggest fish caught on the weight of line he was using -- a 6-kilogram, or 12-pound, tippet. A tippet is the final piece of fishing line connected to the hook.

"I was using my fly rod as I always do and I just hooked into something I knew was big but I couldn't see it," he said.

According to Mark Sauter, assistant manager at Tower Rock Lodge where Block was staying, the humpy weighed 10.92 pounds with a length of 29 1/8 inches and a girth of 21 5/8 inches.

Those dimensions mean it surpasses the last record-holder, one Jim Seegraves, who caught a 9-pound, 4-ounce humpy with a 6-kilogram tippet on July 3, 2005, in Cordova.

"We have all the data here and ready to put in the world record book," said Mike Tuhy, Tower Rock Lodge owner and fishing guide.

Tuhy, who was out with Block, said they were fishing beads in lieu of flies on the middle Kenai River near the outlet of Skilak Lake when Block got the bite. After an estimated 10-minute battle, Block landed the fish and deckhand Dustin Klepacki netted it.

"It was pretty ugly. It was so old and in the river it was looking poor, sores on it and whatnot," Tuhy said.

He said that he wanted to cut it loose but Klepacki said it weighed more than 10 pounds and thought they should keep it and check it out because of the equipment Block was using.

They took it to the grocery store for an initial weigh-in and then to Echo Lake Locker to use their certified scale. Then they checked the record books.

"We knew right then and there this was indeed the trophy fish that we expected it to be," Block said.

According to Sauter, there are seven different line classes that have certified world records associated with them, from a 2-pound tippet to a 20-pound tippet.

"A 2-pound tippet is counter-intuitively heavier than the 20-pound tippet," Sauter explained.

He said they have yet to submit the application and accessories needed to the International Game Fishing Association -- including the tippet itself -- but all should be notarized and off in the mail next week.

Tuhy said that after all of the information is submitted to the association a committee will then review it and judge it to see if it meets all the world-record qualifications.

Tuhy, no stranger to having clients break records, said he's had a world-record Dolly Varden and last week another customer set a junior record for a yelloweye snapper -- some 26 pounds -- while fishing out of Seward.

"It bodes well for Alaska and the sport fishermen," he said. "For a tough season it's nice to see some world records come out of the Southcentral Alaska region."

Block said he did not have the big pink mounted because he's hoping to have it remembered on the record books.

For him, catching the fish was the thrilling part.

"Getting it in was more of the challenge," he said.

As a game fisherman, he said the excitement for him came with the contest between him and the fish.

Once he got a good look at the humpy, Block sad, he was surprised its gnarly teeth did not break the line.

"I came pretty darn close to losing it with those teeth like that," he said.

Block returns to Alaska to fish every summer with his son but this summer was beyond any of his expectations, he said. In fact, he already booked his fishing trip for next year with the lodge.

"It was the close call for everything, the luck of not breaking the line, the luck of not losing the fish," Block said. "All those things came together for a fantastic experience."

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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