NANFA-- Fwd: Anchorage Daily News 420-pounder could have set record

Jeremy Tiemann (
Mon, 8 Dec 2003 16:59:38 -0600

This article is for your evening reading enjoyment. This fish was
caught by a friend of mine. He said that PBS is going to show part
of his footage on some sort of a Pacific Northwest fisheries special.
He does not know if the show will be aired nationally. Knowing him,
the footage will be interesting.

>Toto - "I like big 'buts and I cannot lie." Here is my fish and the
>story in The Anchorage Daily News. I told you that I am the best.
>I caught this on Kodiak Custom Fishing Tackle, which you know is
>produced by your's truly. If you want to order some tackle to catch
>big fish like me, you know how to get a hold of me... but I doubt
>that you can top this monster. Later - Davis
>>> 420-pounder could have set record
>>>WHAT RULES? Angler testing homemade lure pulls up a monster halibut.
>>>By CRAIG MEDRED - Anchorage Daily News - (Published: September 14, 2003)
>>>Tony Davis caught a 420-pound halibut on this lure, which he made.
>>>It could have been a world record -- if only he had read the
>>>International Game Fish Association rules. (Photo courtesy Tony
>>> Only in the days after the epic battle was won, with the
>>>420-pound halibut safely weighed, did Tony Davis began to count
>>>the ways his place in the record book was lost.
>>> He laughs about it now from his home at the Kitoi Bay Salmon
>>>Hatchery on Afognak Island.
>>> It is enough, he said in a telephone interview, to know that
>>>the fish he pulled in July from the depths near where Kitoi Bay
>>>joins Izhut Bay came within 39 pounds of the world record.
>>> Besides, he added, he is not sure there is much he and
>>>friend Nick Bower could have done differently to stay within the
>>>rules of the International Game Fish Association -- the prime
>>>keeper of big-fish records -- and still get this monster into
>>>their 20-foot skiff without hurting themselves.
>>> Well, maybe a few things.
>>> Some of the rules that were broken were, after all, minor
>>>infractions, Davis learned later, like sharing the rod and bracing
>>>it on the side of the boat at one point for leverage. Others,
>>>however, were more significant, like harpooning this whale of a
>>>halibut and then shooting it twice with a .44-caliber Magnum
>>>handgun to kill it.
>>> "I'm sure that if (the IGFA) saw the video, they'd probably
>>>find several other things we did wrong,'' Davis said.
>>> Had Davis known the IGFA rules and followed them, he would
>>>have set the 130-pound-line-class record for halibut and recorded
>>>the second biggest flatfish since Jack Tragis of Fairbanks pulled
>>>the reigning, 459-pound world record from the waters near Dutch
>>>Harbor in 1996.
>>> But Davis never looked at the IGFA rules until after that
>>>fateful day he and Bower headed out to do some fishing after work.
>>> "I didn't even know what the world record was,'' Davis said.
>>> The Kitoi Bay hatchery worker, who has a night job as owner
>>>of Kodiak Custom Fishing Tackle, wanted to test some new lures he
>>>had designed. Tackle building and design is something Davis has
>>>been doing since he was a kid growing up in Oregon.
>>> "I've always made lures,'' he said. His dad got him started
>>>because he was losing so many spinners while fishing. Now he has a
>>>cottage business making lures for friends and a handful of tackle
>>>shops. It was this business, more than anything else, that lured
>>>the 30-year-old angling entrepreneur north to a hatchery job in
>>>Prince William Sound in 1997 and then on to Kodiak.
>>> "I realized this is where a guy like me needs to be,'' he
>>>said. "If I'm not working, I'm either making tackle or I'm out
>>>researching and developing it. That's why I came up here.''
>>> The R&D was under way this particular evening on Kitoi Bay
>>>with Bower along in the boat with a video camera to document the
>>>results -- if they had results.
>>> "It was just another day at the office,'' Davis said. "It
>>>was kind of snotty out there, and you can't film in the rain. But
>>>we went anyway."
>>> They were hoping the weather would improve by the time they
>>>found the fish. They put their lines down in about 100 feet of
>>>water a quarter mile offshore, only about 11/2 miles from the
>>>hatchery dock, and started jigging with Davis's new lure.
>>> "Sometimes," he said, "it takes a while to get into the bite.''
>>> Not this time, however.
>>> "I didn't have my line down 10 minutes, and I had Big Bertha
>>>on,'' Davis said.
>>> Of course, he didn't know that at first, in part because he
>>>didn't expect to find a monster halibut in such relatively shallow
>>>water so close to shore. This was not, Davis said, the place he
>>>would go looking for a trophy halibut. He was thinking more of
>>>finding 15- to 30-pound fish, maybe something bigger.
>>> "It felt like a little chicken halibut nibbling on it,'' he
>>>added, "and then I set the hook, and then it was like I hooked the
>>> Davis means that literally. The thought that he had hooked
>>>something on the bottom is part of the reason he gave the rod over
>>>to Bower at one point.
>>> "I traded off with my camera guy in the boat to see if he
>>>could do anything, because I couldn't move it,'' Davis said. "It
>>>was like hooking into a submarine.''
>>> For some time, the two men weren't sure what was lurking
>>>unseen at the end of the line. Davis started thinking he might
>>>have hooked into some kelp down deep and the movement he felt was
>>>it swaying in the current as the tide changed. Then he and Bower
>>>discussed the possibility they might have snagged into a shark.
>>> "I just didn't know what I had,'' Davis said.
>>> Whatever it was, he added, it moved when it wanted to move,
>>>and otherwise just seemed to hang on the bottom and ignore the
>>>yanking and tugging on the 110-pound-test fishing line. Though
>>>Davis was using 110-pound-test line, the nearest, larger,
>>>line-class in the IGFA record book is for 130-pound-test line.
>>>Davis's fish would have competed in that category where the record
>>>is a 242-pound halibut caught near Dutch Harbor in 1999.
>>> That fish was puny compared with the one that locked Davis
>>>in a standoff for a long time.
>>> For the first 40 minutes, Davis said, "we thought we were
>>>never going to get this thing off the bottom.''
>>> Finally, ready to give up or try anything, the two men fired
>>>up the outboard on the skiff, tightened the drag down on the reel
>>>as tight as they could, braced the rod against the side of the
>>>boat, and began trying to tow the fish off the bottom.
>>> Fighting the fish with the boat is a major violation of IGFA
>>>rules, but it is what finally enabled Davis and Bower to move this
>>> Once they got the fish off the bottom and moving, Davis
>>>added, the struggle didn't last much longer, maybe 10 or 15
>>>minutes, but then other problems arose.
>>> "When he did come up, he was quite a ways behind the
>>>skiff,'' Davis said. "He looked like a whale back there.
>>> "We thought, 'Oh man, how are we going to get that thing in
>>>the boat?' We thought about letting him go, but that (lure had)
>>>the only one of those jig skirts I had. It was just sent to me by
>>>a manufacturer I've been working with. I didn't want to lose
>>> The two men discussed what to do, and quickly decided they
>>>weren't getting the fish in the boat.
>>> "That fish weighed more than Nick and I, the only two guys
>>>in the boat, and it was half as long as the boat we were in,''
>>>Davis said. "We were in a 20-foot aluminum skiff and the fish was
>>>91 inches (just shy of 8 feet) long. It was almost as long and
>>>wide as a sheet of plywood.
>>> "I knew we were in all kinds of trouble.
>>> "A fish that big, even if you could get it in the boat, it
>>>would bust the bottom out and sink you.''
>>> So they decided they would try to harpoon the halibut and
>>>tow it back to the hatchery. Only by this time, they had worn the
>>>fish to exhaustion, so instead of swimming beside the boat, it
>>>hung down like dead weight on Davis' line.
>>> "He was straight up and down,'' Davis said, which made it
>>>impossible to drive a harpoon through the halibut's head.
>>> "At that point,'' Davis said, "I thought we were still going
>>>to lose him. I thought for sure I was going to break him off.''
>>> He had the drag on his reel cranked down as tight as he
>>>could get it and was only hoping the braided Dacron "Tuf-Line"
>>>would hold. To get the fish up into position so they could harpoon
>>>it, the men again began towing.
>>> With the tow, Davis said, the big halibut came up on a plane
>>>just like a sheet of plywood, and they drove the harpoon home,
>>>tied the line attached to it off on the stern of the skiff and
>>>started for the hatchery.
>>> "We had to tow him about a mile and a half,'' Davis said.
>>>"Every once in a while, he'd go crazy and pull the boat around.''
>>> At the dock, they shot the fish twice to kill it -- another
>>>big IGFA rule violation -- and then hoisted it out of the water
>>>with a crane. Davis, who has consulted the IGFA rule book since
>>>making his catch, believes this is another rule violation.
>>>Apparently, he said, anglers are required to land the fish
>>>themselves -- not pull them out of the water with heavy equipment
>>>even if the latter seems appropriate.
>>> He's still a little unsure, however, of how one lands a fish
>>>like this without heavy equipment. A 400-pound halibut, he said,
>>>is so big it would even be hard for two men to pull it up on a
>>> Processing a fish like this, he added, is its own ordeal.
>>> "It was a good couple hour deal butchering him up,'' Davis
>>>said. "It was kind of like eating an elephant; you just had to
>>>keep working at it.
>>> "You've got a filet a foot thick. ... You can't flip it
>>>over. It was a lot of work.
>>> "I'm glad I got one of that size, but I really don't want to
>>>do it again. It's really overwhelming to deal with a fish like
>>> Overwhelming, but still the thrill of a lifetime.
>>> Davis noted that he might not have any records for this
>>>fish, but "I've got bragging rights.''
>>>Craig Medred can be reached at of 257-4588.

Jeremy Tiemann
Biological Field Assistant
Illinois Natural History Survey
Center for Biodiversity
607 E. Peabody Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820
Telephone: (217) 244-4594
Fax: (217) 333-4949

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