Brookings captain assists in landing 480-pound halibut in Alaska

By The Curry Coastal Pilot July 08, 2014 06:46 pm

Capt. Rye Phillips stands next to the 95-inch, 482-pound halibut he helped Jack McGuire catch July 3 near Gustavus, Alaska.

 GUSTAVUS, Alaska — A charter boat captain from Brookings, who guides anglers in Alaska during the summer, helped a Southern California man catch a giant Pacific halibut in Southeast Alaska last week that rivals the sport fishing world record.

Jack McGuire of Anaheim was fishing with Captain Rye Phillips of Brookings,  aboard the Icy Rose on July 3 when he hooked and landed a 95-inch, 482-pound halibut near the mouth of Glacier Bay.

The barn door halibut would likely challenge the 459-pound International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record caught in 1996 by Jack Tragis if it had not been shot and harpooned.

McGuire, 77, was fishing out of Alaskan Anglers Inn in Gustavus for the Fourth of July holiday. Phillips took McGuire and three other passengers aboard his charter boat to one of his favorite big fish spots at Icy Strait Point near Lemesurier Island, where they fished in approximately 130 feet of water.

The giant halibut took off on a long run after the size 16/0 Eagle Claw circle hook McGuire was fishing with dug in. After a 30-minute give-and-take battle, Phillips spotted the halibut below the boat and let McGuire know it was legal size. In Southeast Alaska, anglers on charter boats can keep one halibut per day as long as it is less than 44 inches, or more than 76 inches. 

“It was giant,” Phillips exclaimed. “We knew right away it was over 76 inches, but we didn’t know it was going to be bigger than the world record.”

Like he does with all big halibut that anglers decide to keep, Phillips subdued the fish with a .410 shotgun, and then harpooned it. Most guides kill the giant halibut before bringing them onto their boats because of how dangerous they can be if they are flopping on the deck. 

Phillips and two of the other fisherman used gaff hooks to pull the mammoth halibut over the side of the boat. Captain Phillips immediately measured the fish, letting him know it was a potential world record. Unfortunately, the fish would not qualify because it was shot and harpooned. Phillips also assisted McGuire by grabbing the line and lifting on the rod during the battle. 

McGuire caught the halibut on 100-pound-test Tuf Line and a 240-pound nylon leader. 

The massive halibut drew quite a crowd at the Gustavus dock. Dozens of people gathered to see the fish hoisted up for photographs before Phillips filleted it for McGuire. The halibut yielded nearly 200 pounds of boneless, skinless fillets.

Just a week earlier, Phillips, who played baseball at Western Oregon University and lives in Brookings during the winter, assisted a customer in catching a 275-pound halibut. 

Gustavus, located 45 miles west of Juneau, is a relatively unknown halibut hot spot. It typically has the largest average size of halibut caught in Alaska, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game statistics.