Brett Freeman and his family hoped to hook a king salmon during their Alaska vacation in late July — but they didn't quite expect one to rocket-launch itself into their arms.
"It was crazy, just how the whole thing happened," Freeman said from Utah on Thursday.
They had come to Alaska specifically to fish for king salmon, Freeman said. On July 29, they were nearing the end of a guided fishing trip on the Kenai River when something hit the line.
They'd already had a few strikes but nothing stuck. So at first they thought it was a snag.
"As we pulled the boat upriver to get the line close, at that point it took off again," Freeman said. They knew there was a fish on the other end.
Freeman's father wrestled with the line for a few minutes, letting the fish wear itself out. It was deep in the water, Freeman said, with about 25 feet of line left in the river.
"Then it just bolted," Freeman said.
The fish flew out of the water and into the boat, hitting the fishing rod first and then slamming into Freeman's father. "He knocked into me, and we both kind of lost our balance," Freeman said.
Online, the video cuts off there. "I have the end part of the video too, but there's too much swearing in it," Freeman said.
The two men stumbled and fell onto the floor of the boat, while his brother-in-law "literally jumped on the fish," Freeman said.
The fishing guide killed the salmon with a few whacks to its head. At some point, the tip of the fishing rod snapped, he said.
"It happened super fast," Freeman said.
The situation was an unusual one, wrote Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the Nothern Kenai Peninsula.
"I've had a silver jump in my boat once. In general that is uncommon for a king to do," Pawluk wrote. "They way they were fighting the fish with the boat right next to it in fast current probably increased the probability that could happen versus letting off power and fighting the fish while drifting down."
The salmon was 50 inches long, and using a formula, Freeman estimated it weighed about 66 pounds, though Pawluk wrote it was probably overestimated.
"50 (inch) kings rarely reach that size … I think a more accurate weight range would be somewhere between 48-53 lbs," he wrote.
Freeman brought the salmon back to Salt Lake City where his family lives. "I had a fillet, and yeah, it was really good. I barbecued it." There's still some in the freezer, he said.
The experience made for a good story, on top of good eating.
"I'm glad I got it on video because otherwise nobody would believe us," Freeman said.