SEQUIM — William “Woody” Woods boated from Everett to Sequim on Friday and caught the fish of his life on the last day of halibut season.
“I topped off the season, just right,” Woods said by phone Saturday afternoon.
“I’m proud of it. I’m really proud of it.”
After a 30-minute fight on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Woods, with help from fishing companions Ted Measor and Pat Vaughn, pulled a 225-pound halibut into their boat.
The halibut actually helped its captors with a tail flop that provided just enough momentum for the anglers to finish pulling the fish into the boat.
“And he was not happy,” Woods, 71, said.
“It took all three of us to get him in, and I’ll tell you, when we finally got him in, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was wasted.”
Measor, 53, and Vaughn, 29, both of Everett, had already reeled in halibut of their own — which weighed 45 and 20 pounds — and started teasing the “old guy” of the group about his lack of success.
Woods sent his big blue-and-white bucktail fly — which he bought years ago from a surplus store that was going out of business — that was baited with herring and salmon belly fat down to about 450 feet near the yellow buoy off Dungeness Spit.
Woods was using circle hooks, which he said he wasn’t accustomed to.
Following the advice of one of his friends, Woods began “cranking easily,” and caught on to something.
Vaughn and Measor thought Woods was hung up on the bottom.
“But, I said, ‘No, it’s coming,’ ” Woods said.
“And soon, I’m straining.”
It took a few minutes for the halibut to realize it was hooked. When it finally did, it tried to escape its predicament by darting down toward the bottom of the Strait.
“And the fight was on,” Woods said.
Closer to shore
Most anglers have success this year fishing shallower depths for halibut.
In fact, at the Port Angles Salmon Club’s halibut derby last weekend, many of the top fish were caught in less than 100 feet of water.
Woods said he has also been fishing in shallower water, but he and his crew decided to try deeper water Friday morning.
Using their Fishfinder, the three anglers found a hot spot that produced each his limit of one halibut per day by 11:30 a.m.
“We didn’t move more than a quarter or half of a mile the entire time,” Woods said.
After Woods’ big catch, word quickly spread, even before Woods, Measor and Vaughn left the water.
Another angler who the trio knows happened to be fishing nearby, heard about it from a phone call and came over to help measure it.
Back at the dock in Everett, a few other acquaintances came to see the halibut for themselves, including Ron Garner, the president of the Sno-King chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers.
Woods becomes the overwhelming favorite to win the Sno-King chapter’s big fish of the year derby.
“That’s where my money would be,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More in Sequim said.
Woods said he received a standing ovation at the Puget Sound Anglers meeting he attended Saturday morning.
Menkal said halibut weighing more than 200 pounds are only caught once every year or two on the Strait waters near Port Angeles and Sequim.
According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the largest Pacific halibut caught in Washington’s waters was a 288-pounder caught by Vic Stevens on Sept. 9, 1989, at Swiftsure Bank near Neah Bay.
Prior to Friday, the biggest fish Woods had ever caught was a 100-pound halibut near Port Townsend.
Woods has no plans of retiring his rod and “going out on top” like Port Angeles native John Elway did after winning two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s.
“Hell no. Now I’ve got to go get a bigger one,” Woods said.
“But, that will be next year. I don’t think I need any more halibut right now.”
Woods, Measor and Vaughn are evenly dividing their combined catches three ways. Woods estimates that each is receiving approximately 50 pounds of filet.
If that happens to be too much, there are many acquaintances ready to help them eat the halibut.
“When you catch a fish like this, it gets you a lot of friends; they’ve been coming out of the woodworks,” Woods said with a laugh.
One day left
Anyone aiming to top Woods’ 225-pound halibut has one day left to do so.
The halibut fishery on the North Olympic Peninsula has only one day remaining: this coming Saturday in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu).
Outdoors columnist/sports reporter Lee Horton can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at [email protected]