A crowd of about 150 people waited for a group of five South Carolina men to return from a day of fishing.
Word spread quickly around the town of Coffman Cove, Alaska, that the five men — Charlie and Mark Myers of Pendleton and Dave Herron, Brian Williams and Bill Williams of Abbeville — hauled in one of the biggest fish ever caught near Prince of Wales Island.
Herron, who had made his first trip to Alaska, said the group’s boat captain, Frank Wethersbee, radioed the lodge to notify others that the group would be late for dinner.
“When he did that, the word spread all over town,” Herron said. “He said we were going to be late because we had a big fish. The word spread all over town. It was a small town. We put the fish on the dock. The whole town came to see the fish.”
Coffman’s Cove residents spent two or three hours, Herron said, taking pictures of the fish. Coffman Cove has a population of 176.
The six men spent 2 1/2 hours wrestling a 90-inch, 409-pound halibut out of the water. When they finally pulled it above the surface, they shot it and pulled it on board.
Brian Williams hooked the fish, and he said the struggle to lift it out of the water was a tense but exciting ordeal.
“It was very tense because everyone on the boat could tell it was a really big fish,” Brian said. “It dove back down to over 300 foot on us several times. It was tense, fun and exciting, all at the same time.”
Brian had come to Coffman Cove for his third fishing trip. His father, Bill Williams, had been fishing at Coffman’s Cove for 19 years.
The 409-pounder was caught by the group on their first day of halibut fishing in Coffman’s Cove. Williams and Herron said Wethersbee told them it was the biggest fish he’s ever seen in 35 years of fishing around Prince of Wales Island. The next biggest Wethersbee had seen was a 380-pound halibut caught in 2017.
The biggest halibut ever caught is said to be a 515-pounder caught in the Atlantic Ocean near Norway in 2013. The record for Pacific halibut is 459 pounds, which was set in Alaska in 1996, according to the International Game Fishing Association.
All of the fish the men caught were vacuum sealed and will be sent back to Abbeville for them to keep. Brian won’t soon forget the scene at the dock when his group arrived with the fish.
“So many of them showed up because they had never seen a fish that big,” Brian said. “And here are these guys from South Carolina, first day they’re here, they bring that thing up.”