by Todd Peterson
About eight years ago, my brother, who lived in Port Angeles, Washington, invited me to go halibut fishing with him and a friend. My brother has always been an avid fisherman and I was excited about going. We started out at the local fishing supply store to gather our supplies. On the wall hung a harpoon. I remember looking at it and thinking, “What do we need a harpoon for?” It wasn’t long before I discovered the reason!
So off we went. We had decided to try fishing the freshwater bay. My brother had borrowed a halibut rod from a friend that was loaded with 150-pound downrigger line. That, I guess, should have given us an idea of what we were about to get into! (That and the harpoon we didn’t need.)
It was a beautiful day. We had our lines in the water, were drinking some suds, and generally just minding our own business when all of a sudden my brother\’s pole jumped and almost ripped out of the pole holder. He finally got it out of the holder. The lines were ripping off the pole like we had never seen or heard. We were in my 17-foot fiberglass boat and the three of us looked at each other and wondered, “What do we do now?” We hadn’t even seen this ‘creature from the deep’ yet.
After an hour or so (time really does fly when you\’re having fun) we could tell that the fish was getting close to the surface, since so much line was coming in on the spool of the reel. We looked over the side of the boat. Well, I can’t speak for the other two guys, but what I saw almost scared the crap out of me! The halibut was still several feet under water, but it looked like a hood from a Buick coming up from the depths. We panicked. We had a gaff on board, so I suggested to the friend that he set the gaff and hold on while I filled the critter full of lead with my trusty 380-automatic Beretta. Great! We had a plan, right? Wrong. It turned out that the gaff was an old hay hook with a loop handle. He laced his fingers through it and when he gaffed the fish he couldn’t let go! It was just like the movie, “Jaws”! The friend was thrown around the boat and it was all we could do to keep him from going overboard. At one point I actually had to grab his belt to keep him from going over. Needless to say, I didn’t get a shot off. This lasted about 5-10 minutes and luckily (or not), the gaff finally pulled free. Out came the hooks with it and good-bye Mr. Halibut. We sat down in awe and all three of us were just about crying.
That halibut was the fish of a lifetime for my brother. How big was it? Well, this is from memory, but he had to have been between 7-8 feet long, and 14-18 inches thick just behind the head. I remember thinking that it was WAY too big for the boat!
I went back to the fishing store and bought that harpoon before going halibut fishing the next time. Although smaller than my brother’s fish, I caught one of my own in Port Angeles that was 72 inches long and weighed in at about 180 pounds.
Just a footnote. This is even more of special memory because my brother found out about that time that he was HIV positive. He’s still with us, thankfully, and this story is a memory that I will cherish forever. Thanks for the opportunity to share.
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