It wasn’t record breaking. But a nearly 400 pound halibut caught by local fishermen near Petersburg over the weekend was still pretty darn huge. Abbey Collins visited the boat that made the catch on Sunday as it was hauled up to be processed.
PFI, one of Petersburg’s main fish processers is bustling with workers. Cleaning, cutting, packing. The floor is wet and slippery and the air smells fishy. And a handful of people make their way outside to watch the F/V Day Spring pull up to unload an unusually large animal.
Petersburg fishermen Brian Mattson and Doug Corl were out long lining in Frederick Sound when they had an unexpected visitor.
“Didn’t even know it was on until we saw it from the surface,” says Mattson. “Put the shark hook on it, used the winch to bring it up and didn’t even make a move whatsoever, it just came right in nice and easy.”
He’s talking about a 396 pound halibut.
“It just kept coming and coming and then we knew it was big once it took a long time to get it winched up there,” says Mattson.
Mattson has been fishing for a long time, since he was a teenager, but he’s never caught a halibut quite this large.
“I think in the low 300s we got,” says Mattson. “But this is definitely the biggest Doug and I has ever caught.”
Mattson was surprised to see the massive fish come out of the water. Originally, they thought it was even bigger.
“Last night it measured out to 92, 93 inches,” says Mattson. “And in the tide book it said it was like 435. The NOAA observer measured and looked it up, he thought it was 450, 470. But it all depends on how thick they are.”
The boat’s long lining equipment made it easier to pull in the fish.
“A lot of guys go out in the smaller boats and don’t have the winches and stuff to do it,” says Mattson. “And that would be tough to get on board.”
Mattson and Corl brought the fish back to be processed at Petersburg Fisheries Inc.
Levy Boiter with the International Pacific Halibut Commission made it down to see the fish’s arrival.
“This is definitely not the average fish,” says Boiter.
They would have to make it into the upper 400s to beat the world record, but for these Petersburg fishermen, it was still a big day…and a huge fish.