Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 5:07 PM on Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fishing for halibut, Pennsylvania angler lands hefty, 7-foot-4-inch salmon shark

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo provided

Capt. Darren Keeler of Bob's Trophy Charters helps fisherman Paula Zimmerman of Newville, Pa., pose with the 7-foot-4-inch salmon shark she caught Wednesday while fishing with Keeler. Looking on is Zimmerman's husband, Robert, who also was fishing that day.

Going fishing was at the top of things to do in Homer for Paula Zimmerman of Newville, Pa.

Zimmerman did go fishing, but got a surprise when she hooked something off Seldovia that charter captain Darren Keeler said wasn't "swimming right for a halibut."

After 45 minutes of reeling and with Keeler giving directions, Zimmerman landed a 7-foot-4-inch salmon shark.

Zimmerman, her husband, Robert, and their friends, Dave and Dorothy Thompson, drove to Homer from Pennsylvania on motor trikes, three-wheel versions of motorcycles made by Honda.

"We'd eaten halibut before so the main thing was halibut fishing," said Zimmerman of the couples' activity of choice once arriving at the end of the road "We wanted to get some to send back home."

On Aug. 3 the four Homer visitors were doing just that with Keeler of Bob's Trophy Charters. They were fishing on the 26-foot Mary P II off Seldovia in about 240 feet of water, bringing in a nice collection of halibut and enjoying themselves. So much so that when Dave Thompson hooked into a small 15-pound halibut sporting a big-dollar Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby tag — worth $500, as it turned out, and sponsored by Crane's Nest B&B — they didn't stop there, but decided to keep fishing.

Then Zimmerman got a strike on her line that forced her from one side of the boat to the other, putting up a fight not typical of halibut.

"It wasn't coming up right. He was giving us a good fight. I thought the pole was going to go," said Zimmerman.

Keeler stayed at Zimmerman's side through the 45 minutes it took to get the fish to the surface.

"She did really good. She's got a hell of an arm on her and took instructions well," said Keeler, who has been a licensed charter captain for about 15 years.

As the captain had predicted, it was not a halibut on Zimmerman's line. Instead of the barndoor shape of a big halibut, it was a thrashing, pointy-nosed, teeth-flashing salmon shark.

"As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was. And (Capt. Darren) said he thought that's what it was, too," said Zimmerman of the surprise that awaited them when they saw Zimmerman's catch.

There were some chaotic moments for Keeler, who fishes without benefit of a deckhand. With the help of others on board, he managed to wrestle the monster fish out of the water.

With stories to tell and plenty of fish — halibut and shark — being shipped back to Pennsylvania by a local processor, the Zimmermans and Thompsons, who left home July 8, departed Homer Aug. 4 to begin their long three-wheel journey home.

"It was amazing," Zimmerman said of her shark-catching adventure. "Capt. Darren was very, very good. I would definitely fish with him again."

Keeler, who described his time with the Pennsylvania visitors as "just a glorious day for all," experienced something less glorious on Friday. The clients fishing with him that day were asked if they wanted to purchase a $10 derby ticket, once when they were in the office of Bob's Trophy Charters and again by Keeler. Both times they declined. Later in the day, they caught a halibut sporting a tag worth $1,000. Without a derby ticket, however, the tag was worthless.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.