It was a beautiful September day at Little Eagle Harbor on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Gerry & Sharon Boeck spent their morning as usual, drinking coffee and gazing out the windows of Little Eagle Lodge, enjoying the view they had become accustomed to. The 1800 foot ridgeline reaching up to the sky from the waters of Ugak Bay was starting to show signs of fall. The lush summer greenery that gives Kodiak it’s nickname, The Emerald Isle, was giving way to the dark red color of fireweed, creating the illusion that the hills were ablaze. On this particular morning, they shared their ritual with Sharon’s brother, Russ, and his wife Bev.
It was an unusually calm day for September in the Gulf of Alaska. The water lapped at the mile long shore line of Little Eagle Harbor as if it were a lake rather than the ocean that it is. The men, deciding it would be a great day to go hunting, loaded up their packs and rifles and headed out for the day.
The ladies decided to take advantage of the calm day and feed Bev’s addiction to halibut fishing. Of the three boats sitting inside the shelter of the river mouth, only one offered the expedience for Bev’s quick fix. Both the Tigershark (a 32’ commercial fishing boat), and the lodge’s 24’ Scammer seemed like overkill for this placid day. So, they chose the 12’ Smokercraft skiff with the 9.9 Suzuki outboard.
They loaded two halibut rods, rigged with 60 lb. test line and 9oz Solvkroken Stainless Jigs, a tackle box, gaff hook, and lunch in the skiff. After motoring about a ¼ mile from shore they began to fish. Releasing the bail on their reels with their thumbs keeping tension on the line, they let the jigs drop until they had felt them hit bottom at about 80’. Then they reeled their line up with three turns of the handle to leave the jig suspended just above the ocean floor.
Rather than setting anchor, they chose to let the boat to drift in the current. This allowed them to cover more area while enjoying the summer-like day. Every few moments they would “jig” their poles. Using their forearms to pull the rod tip up until nearly vertical and then, letting it drop again which causes the lure to flutter to the end of the slack or the ocean bottom…whichever comes first.
After an hour and a half of drifting along and jigging they hadn’t had a single bite. Although they were feeling a little discouraged, they were still enjoying the beautiful, calm, sunny day. They talked amongst themselves for a while considering whether to head to a different part of the bay.
All of a sudden Sharon’s pole took a big hit and arched over the edge of the boat. ish on!” she said. She began the arduous task of bringing the fish to the boat. Pull up, reel down, pull up, reel down... Bringing a halibut up can, at times, feel like reeling in dead weight, and that’s exactly how this one was coming up.
When she had it close enough to the surface that she could see it, she realized it was a nice size fish. Of course, she didn’t know just how big it was until she handed Bev the pole and tried to gaff it. Once the gaff was in it they could see that this wasn’t a job for a gaff hook; they needed the harpoon, which they had not brought with them.
Sharon was holding the gaff hook with both hands as the fish was flopping around trying to get away. Her arm’s were flailing around and slamming against the side of the boat from the tremendous power of the thrashing halibut. Bev began to yell, “Let him go, let him go! It’s just a fish, it’s just a fish!”
“But it’s a BIG fish!” Sharon yelled back, not wanting to give up so easily.
With less than 10” of freeboard between the ladies and the water, and, with her arms being beat mercilessly, Sharon realized the dangers of trying to bring this fish aboard. When a large halibut is flopping around in the bottom of a boat it has the ability to knock a person over and even break a leg. On a larger boat this would not have been a problem, but in the skiff, even escaping human injury, the fish could still beat the boat to pieces or capsize it.
Here they were, two ladies, in a small boat, with a fish that was longer than Sharon is tall stuck on the end of a gaff hook. What where they going to do? They looked at each other for a moment and realized their only option was to try and land it on shore.
With Bev still holding the pole Sharon hoped, as she slipped the gaff hook out of the halibut, the 9oz jig would stay hooked in halibut’s jaw. As soon as the gaff was out the fish dove toward the bottom. Sharon took the pole back from Bev and once again began the pull up, reel down action until she could see the fish again. She allowed enough line to keep the fish about 15 feet from the boat.
Sharon handed the pole back to Bev and started the outboard and slowly headed toward the shoreline a quarter mile away with the fish in tow. Although it had been gaffed in the head, the halibut was still alive and kept swimming from side to side. The fishing line was getting dangerously close to the outboard prop and at times the fish was too. Worried that the line or fish would get caught in the prop they changed their plan of attack for landing the halibut on the shore.
Sharon turned the little skiff around and headed to shore in reverse. Bev was seated in the bow of the boat, rod in hand, with a halibut hooked at the other end. They very slowly made their way to shore in reverse. After about a half an hour they reached the beach. Sharon jumped out of the boat and Bev handed her the pole which amazingly still had the halibut attached at the other end. Sharon landed her 130 lb, 5’4” halibut which she caught in 80 feet of water, on a sandy beach. After gaffing the halibut and with Bev’s assistance to drag it out of the water the two exhausted ladies looked and each other and began laughing. After all it was pretty ironic that they started off deep see fishing and ended up landing the fish from the beach.
Now that the fish was on solid ground they realized they were still about a 1/8th of a mile down the beach from where they really needed to be. Being the resourceful ladies that they are they tied a rope through the halibuts gills and drug it back into the water. Using the buoyancy of the surf breaking on the beach they floated the halibut an 1/8th of a mile down the shoreline to the mouth of the river and then continued to walk it up the river another 250 feet and tied the halibut off to the bridge that crosses the river.
After a hard, yet exciting day of fishing, they headed up to the lodge to toast in celebration of their big catch. The men returned from their hunting trip shortly there after. Sharon and Bev told them of their adventure that day. The guys thought they were joking but walked down to the bridge to humor the women. They were shocked to see the ladies were not joking. They really had landed a 130 pound halibut. It was picture taking time!