16-year-old Hastings girl catches 375-pound halibut in Alaska
During her 16 years on earth, Kate Curtis hasn't caught a lot of fish. The ones she has caught, though, have certainly been memorable.
In August, while in Alaska on a family vacation, Curtis caught what may be her last fish - an 88-inch, 375-pound halibut.
While it was fun, the sport still doesn't appeal much to the Hastings High School junior.
"I'm kind of a retired fisherman now," she said. "I don't know... Just being out on the boat catching smelly fish that live in those waters doesn't really appeal to me. I just kind of go when I have to, or when we're on a family trip.
"It's enjoyable, sometimes, but most of the time I'd rather just go swimming or something."
Curtis was with her parents, Kari and Paul, on the vacation and they were out on a charter near Point Adam, about 35 miles away from Homer. The captain had led them to a good spot, as they were catching a fair share of 45 to 50 pounds fish, including some halibut.
The captain, though, wanted to find some bigger fish, so he told everyone to begin reeling their lines in. Curtis got started doing that.
"I was trying to reel mine up, but I couldn't," she said. "The pole was bending into the water."
The guide calmly said: "I think you got one there, Kate."
"I was like, all right," Curtis said matter of factly.
Soon, though, her tune changed.
"More line was going out than was coming in," she said. "He just wouldn't give up. I didn't know if it was a shark or what. It was just huge."
Curtis fought the fish for about 25 minutes before handing the rod over to her father. It took him another 25 minutes to get the fish to surface.
"The pole was bent the entire time," Kari Curtis said. "It was all (my dad) could do to get the fish up."
Finally, it did just that.
"All of a sudden, you see this huge shadow," Curtis said. "It was just really cool."
The guide, Capt. David Bayes, hopped down to the water's edge and got out a tape measure. He measured the fish at 88 inches. According to a length and weight chart, the fish was estimated to weigh 375 pounds. They never took the fish out of the water, fearing it would stress the fish out and injure it.
Curtis happily released the fish, which she learned could lay some four million eggs every year.
While releasing the fish was a sportsmanlike thing to do, don't expect to see Curtis hitting the local waterways in pursuit of more fish. She doesn't like to eat them, she said, not even ones from the ocean.
"I don't really like to eat them," she said of fish in general. "For me, it's just knowing that they've been lying on the bottom of the ocean with other fish and seaweed. I'd rather have McDonalds."
If her name strikes readers as a familiar one, there's good reason it does. It was three years ago that Curtis caught a 50-inch, 34-pound muskie while fishing in Grand Rapids.
She was out in her father's boat and caught the fish about 10 to 15 minutes after getting in.
"I thought that was a big fish," she said. "It was about as tall as me then. Then I go and catch this monster. I don't know. The big fish, they just like me, I guess."
Between that big muskie and the big halibut, Curtis hadn't gone fishing.
"She's just a lucky girl, I guess," Kari Curtis said.
The Curtis family went to Alaska to visit a friend of Paul's, Robert Begich. He graduated with Paul Curtis with the HHS class of 1981.
Begich works with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as an area management biologist.
Begich forwarded the measurements of the fish that Curtis caught to a colleague, and he replied that of the more than 107,000 halibut that have been measured there, only 13 were larger than 86 inches long.
Paul and Kari Curtis have four children in all. In addition to Kate, they have two sons, Peter and Patrick, and daughter Johanna.