Bill Thomas (skipper) photo, courtesy of Tracey Harmon.
Cole Thomas and Jeff Wackerman stand beside a 425-pound halibut they caught aboard the Raven’s Walk in Icy Strait.

Three local commercial fishermen caught what is likely to be the biggest halibut hauled in by a Haines skipper this season, weighing 425 pounds and measuring 91 inches in length.

“It was just an epic fish,” said fisherman Cole Thomas, who hooked the fish with his father and captain Bill Thomas and friend Jeff Wackerman. “This one is a lot more special than most.”

The three caught the halibut in Icy Strait, near Point Adolphus, with a commercial longline using cod and humpy salmon heads as bait.

“I could see the line was going straight down. That means something big’s coming. I was telling my friend (Jeff): It’s going to be a big one, get ready,” Cole Thomas said.

The fight began at the surface, he said. He hooked the halibut’s bottom jaw, then wrapped a rope around its tail and used a hydraulic drum to lug the fish tail-first into the boat, before dragging it up onto the deck and cleaning it.

“We usually catch a fish like that almost every year. But it’s been a while since we had one at 91 inches,” Thomas said. It weighed 310 pounds gutted and headless.

He added that it’s not the biggest halibut he’s ever caught in 22 years fishing out of Haines but he guessed it would be the largest hauled in by a local fisherman this year.

In three trips to Icy Strait, Thomas and his mates caught about 12,000 lbs of halibut, which are selling for a soaring $8 per pound, Thomas said.

That means the monster halibut netted more than $2,400. The crew pitched it to a Hoonah processor, Thomas said.

The largest halibut caught on record in Alaska weighed 459 pounds, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG). Sport fishermen hooked it in 1996 in Unalaska Bay near Dutch Harbor.

A fisherman from California hauled in a 482-pounder in Icy Strait eight years ago but shot and harpooned it before bringing it aboard, violating rules set by the International Game Fish Association, which maintains the record book.

“Such monsters aren’t exactly common, but they aren’t exactly rare in the Gustavus area either,” declared an Anchorage Daily News article at the time.

Halibut are known to grow to over eight feet and 500 pounds.

Tracey Harmon, Thomas’ sister-in-law, serves fish and chips made from locally caught halibut at her food truck, Frog Lady Fish Company.

She said the dish has been a big seller this summer and that she’s frying up about 20 pounds of halibut per week. “That’s what I like about this business model – to be able to tell that story about where the fish came from,” she said.