Angler's Pacific Halibut Just a Shot Away From the World Record

HalibutLast Thursday, a 76-year-old Californian angler caught what could have been a new world record for Pacific halibut...if he had not also made several rule infractions while landing the behemoth fish.

Jack McGuire, of Santa Ana, Calif., reeled in the 482-pound halibut from Alaskan Panhandle waters near the mouth of Glacier Bay while on a chartered fishing trip with three friends. Pulled from 130 feet of water on more than a 100-pound-test line with a 240-pound-test leader, the half-hour fight required McGuire to ask for assistance from others on board.

In order to subdue the fish before hauling it onto the 28-foot charter boat, McGuire also agreed to have Captain Rye Phillips shoot and kill the halibut with a .410 bore shotgun.

The helping hands and shotgun blast disqualify McGuire from setting the world record, according to the official rules outlined by International Game Fish Association (IGFA), the Florida-based organization that referees record game fish attempts. For McGuire's fish to even be considered, he would have had to personally use only a gaff or net to land the fish, and not the shotgun, harpoon or the help of his friends.

"I think if [Capt. Rye Phillips] had known how big it was, he wouldn't have shot it," Deep Blue Charters manager Andy Martin, Phillips' employer, told Alaska Dispatch News.

Halibut of this size, referred to as "barn door" halibut, a term used for those fish weighing 300 pounds or more, can be extremely dangerous once brought aboard. When struggling, their massive bodies have been known to injure fishermen and even sink smaller boats.

To ensure the fish can be pulled safely aboard, many charter captains prefer the method of killing the halibut once it surfaces alongside the boat. However, the decision to do so will take a world record contender like McGuire's out of the running, making that initial eyeball estimate of a fish an important moment.

But a moment with a record-potential halibut isn't exactly common. The current IGFA world record for Pacific halibut is held by Jack Tragis of Fairbanks. The halibut he caught near Dutch Harbor on June 11, 1996, weighed in at 459 pounds. McGuire's haul would have outweighed the current record by 23 pounds.

McGuire did not go home empty handed, however. Along with an once-in-a-lifetime story, the Californian and his friends will be taking nearly 200 pounds of boneless, skinless meat back with them to the Lower 48.

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