After three days of very rough, expensive fishing, Gary Klein’s prospects were as sodden as the turbulent sky.
And now on his last chance on the last day, he was hopelessly snagged on the bottom.
What a bummer.
Klein had plunked down $4,500 to grab up the one empty seat in a hard-core Alaskan fishing adventure that included a long airline flight and a thrilling floatplane ride to Craig, in southwestern Alaska.
But they’d been all but skunked for two long, 12-hour days. They’d hooked cod and silver salmon and a variety of fish, but nothing to brag about.
“We did poorly,” said Klein.
The 18-year Payson resident had recently been laid off from his management job at Foxworth — so he called it retirement and resolved to take the trips he’d been putting off for years — including some epic fishing trips.
But it wasn’t exactly working out.
For two days, they’d worked the normally reliable area close to shore.
Then they’d prevailed on their guide to take them eight miles out, hoping for some open ocean luck. Instead, they got rough seas and not many fish.
So on the last day of the tour, they pleaded with the Native American fishing guide to take them to a better spot.
He warned them they’d have to travel for hours in the boat to reach a spot he’d had luck in before — but they jumped at the chance.
Several other men in the 12-person group started catching nice-sized halibut and salmon.
So Klein was commencing to feel optimistic.
Until he got hung up on the bottom.
“I’m stuck,” he said to the guide.
The guide studied the stretched-tight line where it entered the water.
“Reel it in three clicks,” said the guide.
Klein reeled it in three clicks. Still stuck.
“Reel it in three more,” said the guide.
Klein took in the line three more clicks.
That’s when the unseen fish 180-feet beneath the boat got irritated.
The line began reeling off the spool with a whine.
“That’s not a fish you got,” said the guide, “that’s a monster.”
So everyone pulled in their lines to become spectators to Klein’s effort to land the monster as it was “dancing all over.”
After 38 minutes of hard work, the gigantic halibut came close enough to the boat for the crew to gaff it on board.
There, the flopping fish decked one of the fishermen with a swap of its giant tail, before the guide could dispatch it.
The halibut weighed in at 164 pounds, the second biggest fish the guide had landed on his boat in four years.
The monster fish broke the drought for the trip.
Klein ended up bringing home 87 pounds of fillets for his freezer, along with a full load of life memories. That’s a lot of fish — especially at $52 a pound.
Klein, who volunteers at both the chamber of commerce and the Payson Public Library, said he’s planning more trips — and an even more remote and ambitious Alaskan fishing trip next year.
Klein notes that he never got married, so he doesn’t have to talk a spouse into such a hard-core fishing trip.
“I have a dog, but he never objects,” said Klein.
And a host of friends who will be eating their share of halibut in the next few weeks.