True Barn Door Caught In Straits

An estimated 225-pound halibut was landed in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca Saturday by Woodinville, Wash., angler Ryley Fee.

RYLEY FEE (LEFT) AND HIS ESTIMATED 225-POUND HALIBUT. (COURTESY RYLEY FEE)

According to his Facebook page, the 75-inch-long fish yielded over 130 pounds of fillet.

Fee credits the team of anglers he was with on the water west of Port Townsend and north of Discovery Bay. He describes the bite and fight on Piscatorialpursuits:

“We picked this fish up on a mound northwest McCurdy Pt. between Dallas and the Yellow can in 180 F.O.W. Fish bit a Black Label herring with a Silver Horde 10 inch Splatterback Hoochie skirt over the herring, 125# test leader off a spreader.

FEE AND FISH. (COURTESY RYLEY FEE)

“That’s probably the biggest one I’ve heard of caught so far,” says WDFW’s Larry Bennett, a longtime catch sampler for the norther Olympic Peninsula.

He says a pair of 200-pounders were also brought back to John Wayne Marina as well this season, and on Saturday, Isaac Buell hauled in an unexpected 149-pounder to Port Townsend.

Bennett says Buell and a friend had actually been out lingcod fishing near Partridge Point, on Whidbey Island, when they hit that fish — plus a 49-pounder.

Fee’s fish is right up there with some of the larger halibut landed in the Strait in recent seasons. Bob Aunspach at Swain’s in Port Angeles, a store which holds an annual halibut derby, says he’s seen fish from 150 pounds up to 220 to 230 pounds in the back half of this decade.

“Sure is a big fish,” adds Ron Garner, a local big-but catcher. “There are some big barn doors out there.”

The state record is a 288-pounder caught at Swiftsure Bank, at the west end of the Strait by Vic Stevens in September 1989.

By all accounts, halibut fishing in the Straits is pretty good so far this year.

“Probably the best I’ve ever seen – ever,” Aunspach says. “Good numbers — a lot in that 50-and-under range. Some really big catches.”

Adds Lori Peterson, a WDFW catch sampling manager, “We’re averaging a fish a boat in Area 6.”

According to Bennett, 952 anglers in 452 boats caught 415 halibut in three days of sampling at five different ramps. Friday saw some of the best catches — 147 flatties for 258 anglers aboard 116 boats that docked at Ediz Hook, he says.

“A lot of fish in the 20- to 25-pound range — that’s probably average,” he says.

Last week’s tides were very good for fishing — minimal movement — but a daytime minus tide might make it tough this weekend, Bennett says.

While the catches are good, he says something else is going on: “We’ve got everyone and his brother out there — that’s kind of panic fishing.”

Last year, season was open 31 days, he says, this year only 13 days due to reduced quotas from Federal managers.

Halibut fishing in Area 6 is open May 1-May 22 Thursdays through Sundays, and May 28, 29 and 30, daily limit one.

Asked if we’ll see any more monster’s like Fee’s over the next three weekends, Garner responds, “I think so.”

His cell phone’s voice message indicates he just might be on the water those weekends too.

Fee will have more on his catch later this week.

Over on the Pacific, Terry Wiest of SalmonUniversity says that the halibut there seem to be “noticeably smaller” this year. He and a friend did find a pair in the upper 20s to low 30s this past weekend out of Westport.

A PAIR OF 100-POUND-PLUS HALIBUT FOR CONNIE AKERILL AND JERRY, FISHING WITH PACIFIC SALMON CHARTERS. (MARK AKERILL)

For an interesting recounting of the weather-delayed opening day of season out of Ilwaco, check out Scott Sandsberry’s article

EDITOR’S NOTE: AN EARLY VERSION OF THIS STORY SAID THAT FEE HAD CAUGHT THE FISH YESTERDAY, SUNDAY, MAY 9. THAT WAS INCORRECT; HE CAUGHT IT THE DAY BEFORE, MAY 8.

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