Hunter Radley sets the hook, and yells, “Fish on.” His dad, Jeff Radley, checks the rod.
“I think you’re tangled up with one of the other rods,” Jeff explains. The heavy fish has attacked his friend Karl Omdahl’s bait, after inhaling Hunter’s herring. Now, Hunter is not only battling a big fish, but four pounds of lead — and two spreaders — some 200 feet below!
The heavy fish is eventually brought to the surface, harpooned and boated. Hunter’s first halibut, a 79-pounder!
“It looks like the door on our refrigerator,” Hunter marvels.
“That’s a money fish!,” Jeff yells excitedly. Hunter and Parker Radley, who are 10-year-old twins, and dad have signed up for the halibut derby, run by the Mid-Valley Angling club in Salem, Oregon. Three cash prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place: $100, $50, and $25, respectively.
The boys are also eager to earn their halibut pins from the club. A halibut must weigh 50 pounds or more to earn a pin. They have already earned pins for chinook and coho salmon.
A few minutes later, Parker’s rod tip bounces two to three times, like the nibble of a small fish. Suddenly, it slams down to the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Jeff lifts the rod slightly with one hand.
“Hang in there buddy. That’s a big fish,” Jeff says.
“Don’t help me Dad. I want to land it by myself,” Parker hisses, through clenched teeth.
The Radley boys are typical competitive twins. They are seasoned salmon and steelhead anglers, but this is their first halibut trip. Weighing in at 82-83 pounds, the twins are after halibut that could possibly out weigh them.
They are fishing out of Newport, Ore., in Radley’s 22-foot Seahawk Interceptor. They are joined by friends Jason Bader and Omdahl. It is opening day of the summer season. Dad and the boys have been waiting for a calm day on the ocean.
“It’s a long trip and I have waited for good water conditions to take them,” Jeff explains.
The Battle Continues
Parker had watched as Hunter landed that 79-pounder.
“Maybe my fish is bigger, and I can get even with him for killing the biggest turkey,” he says to himself, about an earlier turkey-hunting adventure they had been on together.
Parker slowly gains line on the heavy fish. Violent head shakes threaten to rip the rod from his exhausted hands.
“The boys always want to land their own fish,” Jeff explains. “I fold a towel over the gunnel, they rest the rod on the towel. As the boat rolls and dips with the ocean swells, it helps them like a pumping action. When the gunnel dips down, they gain line, when it rolls back up, they hold on.”
After what seems like an eternity, the anxious crew sees color, then the massive fish comes to the surface. They are in awe of the size.
Jeff has harpooned halibut for years, but knows the size of this one presents a special challenge. The harpoon has a 15-foot rope tied off to the boat.
“I know this fish will go crazy when hit with the gaff. I’m afraid, with a fish this big, he will hit the end of the rope and break off,” he explains. “So, I stick him and then hold onto the rope. I have never seen a halibut go that wild. He shoots along the surface of the water with that powerful tail slapping the water like those whales do in TV commercials. He soaked all of us.”
Finally, the brute tires and comes to the boat. Jeff makes sure everyone is out of the way, gaffs and heaves the heavy fish on board with one adrenaline-driven motion. No easy task considering the fish weighed 92 pounds! They collectively go WOW! The boys agree, “This day cannot get any better.” They have earned their pins and are confident they are in the money for the derby.
The three adults finish out their limits — one each — with halibut all in the 35- to 40-pound class, more like the norm for Oregon waters.
A Family Sweep
A few weeks later, awards are given at the Mid-Valley Anglers meeting for the halibut tournament:
1st Place: Parker Radley $100
2nd Place: Hunter Radley $50
3rd Place: Jeff Radley $25
It’s a s sweep for the Radley family! Note: Jeff had to fish two more weekends to land his paltry, third-place halibut, a mere 56 pounds.
How They Fish
Jeff likes to keep moving fishing for halibut. Usually, there will be enough current, or drift, to keep the boat moving. If not, he will use the kicker motor. He wants to keep moving and bounce the dropper lead off the bottom.
Bait: Fresh herring. The boys jigged live herring in the bay at Newport, before heading out that morning. Radley says he is convinced fresh bait is the way to go fishing at that depth.
Line: 125-pound monofilament
Leader: 125-pound monofilament
Rods: Lamiglass Tri-Flex
Reels: Shimano Tekota
Hooks: 9-0 and 10-0 Gamakatsu. Jeff hand ties double hook mooching rigs.
Spreader and 3-foot dropper
Sinkers: assorted up to 2 pounds.
Oregon Halibut Seasons
Anglers should always check with ODFW Marine Resources at 541-867-4741 or www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP, before planning a trip
Be sure to check out Sportsman’s Guide for a great assortment of fishing gear today.