Susanville man lands giant Alaska halibut

Monday, July 16, 2012



GUSTAVUS, Alaska - A Northern California man caught what may be the biggest halibut landed so far this year in all of Alaska during a trip to the Glacier Bay area in mid July.

John Schaap of Susanville reeled in a giant 88-inch, 380-pound halibut July 14 while fishing with Capt. Andy Martin out of Alaskan Anglers Inn in Gustavus, Alaska.

Schaap’s trophy halibut is nearly twice as big as the leading fish in the Homer, Seward and Valdez derbies.

“I can’t believe how hard they fight,” Schaap said after his 90-minute battle with the barn door halibut. “I had no idea they are that strong.”

Martin rigged Schaap’s rod with a whole pink salmon. The bait was hooked with a size 16/0 Eagle Claw circle hook and lowered to the bottom in 240 feet of water in Icy Straight, around 8 miles from the Gustavus dock.

“The halibut hit the bait, shook its head a few times and then just took off,” said Martin, a veteran Alaska charter boat captain who has gotten customers into dozens of halibut over 200 and 300 pounds. “It probably took 40 yards of line before we even got the rod out of the holder.”

Using a heavy Wright & McGill big game rod, 100-pound Tuf Line and an oversized Shimano reel, Schaap went back and forth with the halibut for nearly an hour before he was able to even get it off the bottom. It took another half hour to bring the fish to the surface.

Once the halibut came into view, the captain used a shark hook tied to a cleat on the boat to secure the fish, and then shot it with a .410 shotgun. It took Martin and four passengers on the boat to pull the trophy fish on board.

The halibut is the second 300-plus pound fish caught in two weeks by anglers fishing out of Alaskan Anglers Inn. In late June, David Lott of Colorado caught a 350-pound halibut while fishing with Capt. Justin Parker.

The two 300-plus-pounders from Gustavus in Southeast Alaska are much bigger than the leaders in halibut derbies in other areas of the state. Through July 15, the leader in the Homer halibut derby is a 219-pounder. The winner of the Seward derby in June was a 196-pound halibut, and 179-pound halibut leads the Valdez halibut derby.

“The biggest halibut in Alaska are caught out of Gustavus every season,” said Martin. “By the end of the season, we’ll probably see a couple of fish over 400 pounds.”

The day before Schaap caught his 380-pounder, he and other customers on Martin’s boat trolled for silver salmon, and caught several pink salmon in the process. Martin saved those fish as bait, marinating them overnight in Pautzke Halibut Nectar.

“Big baits catch big fish and that’s why we use the whole salmon as bait,” said Martin.

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