Sometimes it takes a team to catch a fish. Ask Jay Hicks, the angler who recently caught a 186-pound halibut off Kodiak Island, Alaska. You may not see his name listed beside “halibut” in the official record books, but Hicks loves to tell the story of his unofficial kayak world record catch.

Hauling in a World Record Halibut by Kayak

At the time of this story, Hicks, a 32-year-old Navy Seebee, had only lived in Alaska a few months. He borrowed a rod and lure and bought a 14-foot Hobie Pro Angler.

Hicks was jigging a yellow-and-white Savage Gear Sand Eel, called the Magic Banana, in 80 feet of water when the barn door hit.

Another member of the group, Kodiak police officer Jeff Woods, was fishing with Hicks for the first time. They were getting ready to call it a day when Woods saw Hicks’ kayak zip past leaving a ripple of whitewater in its wake.

It Takes Teamwork to Make the Biggest Catch

While Hicks is a relative newbie, Woods is one of Kodiak’s most experienced kayak anglers. He quickly realized the big fish was pulling the angler towards the open bay. Woods jumped into action, rafting up with Hicks to slow the fish’s escape.

With a man-sized fish on the line, Hicks held on until he was able to get the giant, brown flat fish to the surface. Woods jabbed it with a harpoon.

That sent the halibut on another tear dragging the float under the surface. After Hicks brought the fish up again, Woods hit it with a second dart. The fish didn’t slow, pulling two buoys and both anglers across the water.

“She goes on this run, and there is water screaming over the top of these buoys and they are bouncing and cruising on the surface.”

Hicks will never forget, “She goes on this run, and there is water screaming over the top of these buoys and they are bouncing and cruising on the surface.” He was in awe of the fish’s strength. “It was a good rip, and it was cool to see the power.”

Once Hicks got the fish to shore, he was sure it would be an official kayak fishing record. Then, he learned there aren’t official kayak fishing records.

Official and Unofficial Halibut World Records

The largest halibut ever caught, according to the International Game Fish Association, is a 459-pound behemoth landed by Jack Tragis in 1996. Nick Hadden, programs director at IGFA, pointed out that the harpoon would have disqualified Hicks’ fish.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t an unofficial halibut record. On the other side of the Gulf of Alaska, in Ketchikan, Alaska, the news of the catch was especially interesting to Howard McKim, an experienced kayak angler and former guide.

McKim is probably best known for an entertaining YouTube video with more than 5 million views in which he battles a feisty blue marlin from a 13-foot Ocean Kayak in the Sea of Cortez.

A record in our books. | Photo: Courtesy Jay Hicks
A record in our books. | Photo: Courtesy Jay Hicks

But he is also well-known for catching a 183-pound halibut unassisted in 2004, a feat McKim believed to be the unofficial kayak world record. He also loves to tell the fish story of one of the first true giants landed in a kayak.

To beat his trophy, McKim towed the giant halibut to an island and landed it on dry land. Then he strapped the huge fish to his Ocean Kayak and paddled two miles home.

Halibut Heroics Live on in Legend

McKim wasn’t about to get pulled into an argument over who should hold the unofficial title of largest halibut from a kayak. Putting aside the details, Hicks feels good about beating the record by 3 pounds. After all, it’s not the size of the fish, but the size of the fish story.

This article was first published in Kayak Anger Issue 44. Subscribe to Kayak Anger and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos or browse the digital archives for your desktop here.


This man-sized Halibut is a world record in our books. | Feature photo: Courtesy of Jay Hicks


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Dan Wassmann is a free-lance writer who travels frequently to northern Michigan, where he can be found in his sea kayak on Lake Michigan or in his fishing kayak on inland lakes in pursuit of lunker bass, pike and walleye. Dan is the former managing editor of both City & State, a national newspaper for state and local government officials, and the Deerfield Review, a suburban Chicago community newspaper. He is also a former communications manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, part of the central bank of the United States. Dan has published articles in variety of publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Kayak Angler. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dan is married to Kathy Wassmann. They live in Glenview, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and are the parents of three grown children, all of whom live in Chicago.


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