In what has become an annual occurrence during the spring halibut fishery in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, a few lucky anglers have brought home a monster.
This time Jeff Thomas, Jason Myers and Ross Metcalf of Anacortes left the Skyline Marina Sunday morning for a halibut fishing trip to the Hein Bank area just south of San Juan Island.
The trio anchored in water 75 feet deep, and it didn’t take them very long to zero in on the fish.
Thomas was the first angler to land a 20-pound halibut, and about five minutes later Metcalf battled and landed another fish around the same size.
Little did they know that an hour later something else much larger was about to steal the show.
“When I hooked the big fish, it was so heavy and just swam where it wanted to go,” Myers said. He was using an 8-inch herring attached to a chartreuse/yellow splattered-back hootchie skirt. “I’d lose some fishing line, and then gain it back, and that went on for about 20 minutes until it surfaced. When it came up the first time I said, ‘Man this thing is huge,’ and then the fish dove right back down.”
After two up-and-down attempts to get the halibut near the boat, Thomas got a harpoon into it that tore loose. Luckily the halibut was hooked really well, as it took off with another burst of last-gasp energy.
When it finally surfaced again, Thomas harpooned the fish a second time and they managed to get it secured to the side of the boat.
“It was a total team effort between me and my buddies, and definitely the biggest fish I’ve ever caught,” said Myers, who grew up in Anacortes and recently got back into fishing. “That was for sure a once-in-a-lifetime fish to catch.”
The Anacortes anglers raced back to the marina by 4 p.m. and brought the halibut to Holiday Sports in Burlington to verify its weight. It weighed 192 pounds and measured 73 inches long.
Halibut fishing has been decent in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Port Angeles and Sekiu.
“It has been a good year so far for halibut fishing,” said Larry Bennett, the head state Fish and Wildlife checker in the Strait. He said the average was more than one fish per boat. “The overall size average is 15 to 20 pounds, and we’ve also checked some in the 50- to 70-pound range.”
Boat launches at Sekiu and Port Angeles have been jammed with vehicles.
“It has been crazy and so many people at Sekiu that you couldn’t find anyplace to park or tie your boat at the resorts,” Bennett said. “The first couple of days (May 9-10) we had about 250 to 300 boats out of the Port Angeles area. It was crazy busy, but the fishermen were also catching fish.”
The Port Angeles Halibut Derby was held last weekend. The largest weighed 81 pounds, and second place was 61 pounds.
“There have been some bigger fish topping 100 pounds caught this season, and I saw one at Olson’s Resort (in Sekiu) that was 117 pounds but was caught in the Neah Bay area,” Bennett said. “There was also one out of Port Angeles that weighed about 130 pounds, and a few others in the 100-pound range.”
Other noteworthy monster-sized halibut have been caught in recent years in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.
In late May 2013, Woody Woods was fishing the deep waters off Dungeness Spit just west of Sequim when he landed a 225-pounder. Ryley Fee of Woodinville scored two big halibut in the eastern Strait by catching a 180-pounder on May 3, 2013, and a 200-plus-pounder in mid-May of 2010.