Austin Petty Lands 104 Pound Kayak Halibut E-mail
Sunday, 08 July 2012 18:29

 

Austin Peninsula_ClarionAustin Petty from Soldotna, Alaska is just 17, and already he’s caught a bigger fish from his kayak than most of us ever will in our whole lives. How does 104 pounds of nasty Pacific Halibut sound?

You gotta love this kid. Usually our fantasies about catching big fish in Alaska include a backdrop of blue skies and majestic mountains in the background.  Since it’s a fantasy, let’s throw in a couple majestic bald eagles keening as they wheel overhead, and some blue glacier ice floating on calm glassy seas.

Anyone who has spent even a little time in Alaska knows the reality. More often, the skies are cloudy and grey, it’s cold and maybe raining, the eagles are obvious scavengers, the seas are choppy with wicked currents and oh, did I mention the mud? One thing for sure, no matter the conditions there is always the chance of catching a big, big fish from the kayak.  And, that’s what happened to Petty.

“It was just a regular go-out to catch some fish,” he told me recently. Austin is still in high school, and he is typically Alaska utilitarian. He loves fishing and “just being outdoors.” He uses an older model Ocean Kayak, and dresses out with a surplus “Mustang Suit” from the local Coast Guard station.

Petty traveled the 10 miles from Soldotna to Cook’s Inlet to fish that day.  “I just wanted to go sit and chill,” he says. The current was pulling him out as he fished the bottom using a whole herring with a short UglyStick and a Penn 500.  After an hour or so, he noticed his boat was being towed up current. Fish on!

Just after setting the hook, the rod tip snapped, but he continued to grind away at the fish. “I thought it was a ‘chicken,’ maybe 25 pounds at the most. When I got it up to the boat, it really scared me. How am I going to get this thing in?” One the fight was over, it took Petty 20 minutes to get the behemoth onto his boat, and another 40 to paddle back in.

Soldotna is located on the Kenai River, close to the sport fishing Mecca of Homer, AK.  They are used to seeing trophy fish in those parts.  Nevertheless, a giant halibut caught from the kayak by a 16-year-old is still big news for the area, and rated a front-page story on the local newspaper, The Peninsula Clarion.Petty 104_Hoist

What I loved most about the picture published alongside the Clarion article was the feel of “Real Alaska” it conveyed. Petty looks tired but overjoyed as he hoists the big fish from his kayak.  It’s slimy and bloody and dirty, and the low-tide mudflats bring back my own memories of chilly slogs and beached skiffs. Austin was kind enough to share a few additional shots of his prize, and says he is even more dedicated to kayak fishing now. To top it all off, I asked how his parents feel about his prize catch. “My mom almost cried,” he said. This guy is the real deal.

 

 

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