Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 3:21 PM on Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fish (and rod and reel) get away, only to be caught a short time later

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo provided

Christy Russ is the new leader in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby having caught a 128-pound halibut while fishing with Capt. Ben Martin of North Country Halibut Charters aboard the Fringe Benefit.

Before fishing Saturday with Capt. Ben Martin of North Country Halibut Charters aboard the Fringe Benefit, Christy Russ of Homer purchased a $10 ticket in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. Good move, since she reeled in a 128-pound halibut.

But there's more to the story.

Russ, 41, was fishing with other on the Fringe Benefit in an area where the water was about 80 feet when she felt a tug on the line.

"Then, all of a sudden, the fish went under everyone else's line," said Russ.

Russ handed the rod and reel to Martin to help untangle the situation.

"And then he dropped it. Into the water. No one knew what to do. He was stunned. We were stunned," said Russ of the sudden change of events. "Then, all of a sudden, we heard the line go 'zing' on the reel of a woman jigging for rockfish, and (Martin) knew it had caught my line."

With the permission of Russ and her fishing companion, Martin carefully began reeling in the second line.

"I was thinking there's no way he's going to get this," said Russ.

Martin not only managed to bring in the other fisherman's line, but there, caught on the hook, was Russ' reel.

"He fished it out, gave it to me, threw the belt on me and then I fought the halibut and we pulled it in," said Russ. "I still can't believe how big it was, and I'm very amazed he got the (rod and reel) in and I was able to land that fish. ... It was a great day."

The fish Russ caught was smaller than a 166-pound halibut caught by another fisherman last week, but that fisherman lacked a derby ticket, so Russ moves to the head of the class.

When will they ever learn? That's what Paula Frisinger, coordinator of the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, is wondering about halibut sports fishermen that don't purchase a derby ticket.

"(There are) lots of tagged fish being caught with no derby tickets and money fish at least being put back for another try with an angler with a derby ticket," said Frisinger.

The first monthly winners of the released-fish competition will be announced after June 15.

In the tagged fish competition, with prizes including $50,000 and a new Ford pickup, three new ticket-holding fishermen are waiting until the close of the derby Sept. 15 to be told what their prizes are:

• Zak Mays of Eagle River caught a tagged fish May 27 while fishing on a private boat;

• Colin Saltzman of Columa, Mich., caught a tagged fish June 1 while fishing with Capt. Sean Martin of North Country Charters aboard the Irish;

• Ray Kizer of Palmer caught a tagged fish June 2 while fishing with Capt. Gary Ault of Inlet Charters aboard the Whistler.

Homer has a two-halibut limit per day, per person.

For more information, rules and a complete list of prizes, stop by the chamber and visitor center or visit www.homeralaska.org.