Every year the sport halibut fishery in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Admiralty Inlet seems to generate a fish exceeding the century mark, which is of monster-sized proportions by Washington standards.
The halibut fishery that began last Thursday also started off with some nice-size fish being caught that averaged 50 to 80 pounds, plus one giant flattie that topped the scales at 140 pounds.
Don Wood of Kent and his fishing partner Wynn Bushong of Renton who owns a 22-foot Sea Sport called the Moxie had just spent last Thursday and Friday (May 3-4) getting skunked while chasing halibut out of Port Townsend.
Their hard times of fishless days took a quick change last Saturday (May 5) when they anchored up the boat around 7:30 a.m., and dropped their lines down in the northern part of Admiralty Inlet.
The pair had been fishing for about 10 minutes near their friends in another boat when something big hooked onto Wood’s fishing pole.
At first the fish popped the leader off the downrigger clip.
“I started to feed it line making sure the fish had enough time to chop down the herring, and once I knew we had it hooked up, I started to get a head shake,” Wood said. “The fish then just stayed down there for a while.”
Wood and Bushong knew they had hooked into a good-sized halibut, but how big was the big question.
The fish finally came up to the surface a good distance away from their boat, but the current was running so hard they had to unhook themselves from the anchor, and started to chase the fish.
“It made a couple of good runs on top of the water, and then went down a couple times,” said Wood who fished all his life, but just started halibut fishing last season. “Our friends saw the fish on the surface about 10 feet from their boat, and they said it was about 30 or 40 pounds, but I felt it was a lot bigger.”
After an hour long battle the halibut finally got tired, and Wood won the fight.
Wood got it alongside the boat where they harpooned and cleated it onto the boat. They clubbed the fish a few times, and then shot it with a handgun.
“We didn’t have a scale, but it measured out to 65 inches and the estimated weight was about 140 pounds,” Wood said. “It was definitely a once in lifetime halibut to catch around here, and the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.”
While the word around the boat ramps and marinas was about the big-sized halibut the overall catch was nothing stellar and much slower than last year, according to Larry Bennett, the state Fish and Wildlife checker in Port Angeles where the average was about one fish caught per every two to eight boats.
Last year it was almost a fish per boat average, and the biggest reported caught was a 178 pounder off Green Point located just east of Port Angeles.
The eastern Strait and some parts of Puget Sound halibut fishery are open Thursdays to Saturdays only through June 2, except for Memorial Day, when it is open Thursday to Monday.
(Photo courtesy of Don Wood)