Interior angler surprised by last-minute catch

Posted: Sunday, September 21, 2003


Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

FAIRBANKS - It was one of those last-cast deals.

Brad Webster had decided to do a little arctic grayling fishing in the Chena River on Fort Wainwright before picking up his 1-year-old daughter, Carmen, at the baby sitter early one evening last month.

Webster had already caught and released two grayling when he flipped his line out for what he figured was his final cast.

"It was one of those, 'I-gotta-go-so-this-is-my-last-cast' things," said Webster.

Sure enough, Webster hooked a fish. But this wasn't your ordinary arctic grayling.

"He didn't jump but I saw this huge tail come out of the water and I thought, 'What the heck is that?"' said Webster, a flight medic for the 68th Medical Company Air Ambulance at Fort Wainwright.

At first, Webster thought he had hooked into a salmon heading up the river to spawn. But the fish showed more life than a dying salmon, especially since Webster was using an ultralight spinning rod meant for 12-inch grayling.

"He took me up and down that river a few times," Webster said. "That (rod) was bent all the way over."

After a 15-minute wrestling match, Webster finally landed the fish. The only problem was that he didn't know what it was, other than the fact it definitely wasn't a grayling.

"I didn't have a clue," Webster said.

He took the fish down to a couple buddies at work who like to fish, hoping they could identify it.

"They had no idea what it was," Webster said. "They told me everything from a carp to a silver salmon to a lake trout."

So Webster headed over to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where he was informed that he had caught a 14-pound, 32-inch sheefish.

"I didn't even know that fish existed," said Webster.

While the Chena River is better known for its grayling fishing, anglers do occasionally hook a stray sheefish, though rarely as big as the one Webster caught.

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