First-time angler lands enormous halibut; ‘Utter disbelief’

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Suzanne Stewart is not likely to claim any records for landing a 163-pound halibut last week while fishing in Alaska.

But Stewart’s catch is remarkable considering that she had never been fishing and had to learn while matched against one of the most powerful species of game fish on the planet.

“It was the first time I had ever held a fishing pole in my 62 years,” Stewart, who is from Klamath Falls, Ore., told FTW Outdoors. “My reaction? Utter disbelief, excitement, adrenaline rush, and much squealing to accompany all of it!”

Stewart was fishing with her husband, Paul, at Highliner Lodge & Fishing Charters in Pelican, west of Juneau. The destination is so remote that the only access is via sea plane.

For Paul Stewart, the trip was a pre-retirement bucket-list item. Suzanne was merely along for the ride, but she now seems to be hooked on fishing.

“In four days of fishing we took in 49 coho salmon, 8 halibut, about 10 seabass, and one ling cod,” she said, explaining that two “boat mates” also figured into that tally. “We came home with 250 pounds of fish.”

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The 163-pound halibut was featured in a Highliner Lodge Facebook post, along with the description: “Not only was this Suzanne’s first halibut but the FIRST fish she has ever reeled in! Only took her 20 minutes too! Well done and welcome to the 100-pound club Suzanne!”

The 100-pound mark is an aspiration that can take years to achieve.

However, a spokesman for the lodge told FTW Outdoors that the fleet recently enjoyed a 16-day streak of catching at least one halibut exceeding 100 pounds. Stewart hooked her fish at a depth of 350 feet off the northern coast of Chigacof Island.

Of course, much larger Pacific halibut roam Alaskan waters.

The all-tackle world record, set off Dutch Harbor in 1996, stands at 459 pounds. Fish even close to that size are exceedingly rare these days, but last August a 327-pound “barn door” halibut was landed off Seward.

An image showing that fish towering above the angler had many claiming that it had been altered. However, Snopes verified the facts and stated that while “a little forced perspective [photography] might be in play… in general, this is a real picture of a really big fish.”