A Phoenix woman has landed what appears to be the biggest fish caught in Southcentral Alaska this summer.
Carol Allis on Wednesday pulled in a 300-pound halibut aboard the charter boat Daze Off, captained by Willie Beachy, in 160 feet of water in the Gulf of Alaska. The fish immediately vaulted into the lead in the biggest-fish category of the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby.
While still an extraordinary and valuable fish, Allis' huge halibut won't be worth as much as would have been in previous derbies, assuming it hangs on to win the summer-long fishing festival, which ends in September.
Before this season, derby officials decided to rework the derby to de-emphasize all the attention and prize money focused on big halibut, which are egg-laying females, in an effort to help a struggling population. This year, the biggest fish is worth only $10,000. Past Homer Halibut Derby winners have earned more than $40,000.
Instead, an assortment of prizes are awarded in other categories, including a tagged fish worth $50,000. Most of the tagged fish are modest halibut weighing less than 30 pounds. About 10 a.m. Wednesday, it quickly became apparent Allis' fish wasn't one of those.
"Once it started stripping off line that fast, I could tell it was a monster fish," Beachy said Wednesday afternoon. "This one just started swimming away and stripping off line. For a while, I wasn't sure we could turn her.
"Eventually, she (the halibut) would take a little bit of line, and then Carol would gain some back. Then she would take some more and Carol would gain some back. That went on and on."
It took Allis about 90 minutes to maneuver the halibut beside the Daze Off, a boat with Reel Fun Charters. Then Beachy, two deck hands and two anglers aboard the charter used gaffs to pull the big fish aboard the boat. It was the biggest fish Allis has ever caught and the biggest Beachy has helped bring in during his 10 years of fishing in Homer.
Last year Chad Aldridge of Soldotna took the top Homer Halibut Derby prize with a 351-pound halibut, the fourth biggest in derby history.
Allis' 300-pounder also put a damper on what had been a fabulous fishing day for Homer angler Pam Hanshaw. Not only had she landed a 230-pound halibut to take over the lead in the Homer derby -- a lead that would only last a couple of hours. Hanshaw also caught a 225-pounder the same day, an extraordinary double.
Contact Mike Campbell at mcampbell(at)alaskadispatch.com