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Account of blue whale, tuna catches on Kasilof River get state troopers' ire

Craig Medred

Poor, 21-year-old fishing guide Matthew Terry has just made the unfortunate discovery that authorities in Alaska have no sense of humor. A resident of Tuscaloosa, Ala., the young Terry did some guiding on the Kenai Peninsula's Kasilof River this summer for Reubin Payne of Alaskan Widespread Fishing are required to fill out logbooks to track their catch. Terry, according to Alaska Wildlife Troopers, jokingly reported "he had taken the following species from the Kasilof River: Chupacabra, Tuna, Jack Beluga, and Blue Whales.''

Everyone, of course, knows blue whales and tuna. "Jack Beluga'' was apparently a reference to an undersized beluga whale; the term "jack'' is usually used to denote a precocious, male salmon that returns early to Alaska thinking it can spawn. A chupacabra is another mammal -- this one non-marine -- more commonly known as a "goat sucker.'' It's a legendary, versus real, animal reputed to sneak onto farms and suck the blood out of domestic animals. Scientists theorized a couple years ago that a coyote with mange might be doing doing the blood sucking.

Troopers doubt the validity of Terry's logbook. Expert anglers say it would be impossible to land a blue whale on sport-fishing gear. There has never been a verified report of a tuna in the Kasilof. Scientists have yet to find a jack beluga. And though Alaska has coyotes, those with serious mange rarely survive the winter, and none are known to swim and take bait in Alaska rivers.

Terry told the Tuscaloosa News in September that he really loves fishing in Alaska because "there's so much to it. You have to see how excited people get to catch a fish. People stand up and start breathing hard,'' he told outdoors writer Robert DeWitt. “I enjoy every minute of helping people do that. They're going to remember that the rest of their life. You can make a good impression on a lot of people.”

And a bad impression on others. Terry's people skills may be good, but troopers don't care for his bookkeeping.

"Terry will be spending the winter in Alabama,'' DeWitt reported. "But he's already looking forward to next May when the salmon will return to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers."

Actually, he might be back sooner than that. Troopers reported they on Monday issued a summons for him to appear in the Kenai District Court within 30 days to answer to the charge of "failure to complete logbook as required by Alaska Department of Fish and Game.'' Terry can, however, avoid the appearance by paying a $210 fine.

The ticket is a lot less than airplane fare from Tuscaloosa to Alaska, but still a stiff price to pay for trying to be funny. Tip for Terry: Alaska authorities taking the fishing business seriously -- very, very seriously.