Alaska. The last frontier. It’s the most rugged place in North America.
A place where the lines between the every day lives of people and wild ecosystems are blurred. Many people in the state live still off the land and hunt, fish, and forage for their food like the pioneer days.
Crazy stories often come out of the state detailing accounts of people being mauled by grizzlies, having their campsites robbed by black bears, finding themselves surrounded by wolves while hunting, and just this spring there were 5 different instances of people being trampled by moose. Even the fish in Alaska aren’t scared to mix it up with people who venture into their habitat.
Spear fishing is a popular activity in the state, as divers venture down into the submerged kelp forests to target halibut, one of the most unique looking and best tasting fish in the ocean. Typically a deep water fish, they migrate into shallow water to feed and breed this time of year.
A group of friends were recently having a go at spearing some halibut when one of the big fish decided to have a go at one of them. Chris Pollack, the man who recorded the video shared his story with The MeatEater.
Pollack said that fishing conditions were tough that day with strong currents and a heavy sea swell.
“We got into this spot thick in the kelp and on one of the first drops a buddy picked up a 95-pounder.
We’re like, ‘Wow, this spot is hot.’ We stayed down there most of the day and made a bunch of drops and Brad ended up pulling up a 110- or 115-pounder.”
As Pollack sunk below the water again to look for another fish, the fish found him.
“I made the drop and I’m just sitting on the bottom and I hadn’t even been down there that long. And then all of a sudden that halibut just cruised right in on me and it snapped at my flopper.”
He speculates the fish mistook the shiny broad “flopper” point on his spear as a sand lance baitfish which are a similar size and shape. Pollack wound up having to use his speargun like a jousting lance instead of just firing a typical shot though.
“I went to shoot him and he was too close for my gun. I’m sitting there and I’m trying to back up my arm to try to get a shot off and you can kind of see at the end of the video, I turned my gun and I stabbed him from the top.”
The fish went limp and he thought he had dispatched it. But as he swamp towards the surface, the fish came too, broke free, and took off.
“He went flat and he almost like quivered a little bit. I’m like, OK, he’s stoned, I’m just gonna kick up. I thought he was dead. So, I start kicking to the surface and I was just so stoked, man.
But in the back of my mind, I was like, ‘OK, I should probably pull the trigger and shoot the spear through there and get on the shooting line just in case.’ I got close to the surface and he woke up and just exploded and ripped off my shaft and he was gone.”
He said it is not uncommon for big halibut to play possum when they initially get hit with the spear, and then they make one final fight to break free. Despite this particular fish getting away, Pollack and his crew were still able to harvest 11 halibut that day.