History was made off the British Columbia coast last August, when a lady angler landed what is perhaps the largest Chinook salmon ever hooked on sport gear—a fish in the mythical 100-plus-pound class!
Gayle Gordon and her husband John were fishing near Dawson’s Landing in the fabled River’s Inlet area (in their own boat which they had dragged and ferried from their home Duncan, B.C.) when the monster struck.
Gayle Gordon with the fabulous mount made by Advanced Taxidermy. As you can imagine, there aren’t a whole lot of fiberglass replica blanks of 105-pound kings laying around, so they had to make a custom mold for Gayle’s fish.
“It was my turn to run the rods while John ran the boat,” says Gordon. “We were mooching cut-plug herring down about 25 feet, and when the fish bit, the head-shakes were so violent, so strong. Up there because of the water color, you can’t see the fish until they break the surface but I knew that this was something unbelievable!”
And the Gordons know a thing or two about hooking big kings. They started fishing together 35 years ago on their first date and have been hard at it every year since then. They’ve caught and released 13 Chinook over 50 pounds at River’s Inlet, including three in the 60’s, two in the 70’s, an 82.43 pounder and one just under 85 pounds!
Gayle says that the fish she hooked in August was in an entirely different class than any of their previous giants. She fought the fish on her Temple Fork rod and Islander MR2 “knuckle buster” mooching reel for 45 minutes before getting a look at it. During that time, a crowd of boats gathered around to watch the action.
“The people up there are so awesome and very courteous,” she says. "Basically, the whole fleet saw us catch it. They made a circle around us and watched—and when we got it, they went nuts.”
Gayle says she still doesn’t have words to describe what she was feeling when the behemoth finally came to the net.
“He was brilliant chrome and not a mark on him,” she says. “What an amazing, amazing fish!”
The Gordons scrambled to get some measurements on the fish—and they did so three times just to make sure they got it right and then posed for a couple quick photos which were taken by boats floating around them. In short order, the estimated 7-year-old monster was back in the water and swimming free.
Now, here’s where things get really interesting. The king taped out at a whopping 55 inches (an inch longer than the bottom width on my first drift boat) and had a mind blowing 38-inch girth! Because they let the fish go, the Gordon’s don’t have an official weight on their salmon but they put it into the ol’ tried and true 750 weight formula (Weight = Length x Girth x Girth /750) and it came out to 105.9 pounds!
Now, obviously weight formulas have some wiggle room as far as results go because fish come in all different shapes and sizes, so I decided to run it through some other ones just for fun.
The first one I tried was the Steelhead/Salmon Weight Calculator on www.piscatorialpursuits.com. I’m not sure what the formula is that they use, but when I punched the measurements in, the big king came out at 102.4 pounds. On the Ally McGowan Formula, used for Atlantic salmon (found on www.wherewisemenfish.com), 55x38 gets you 120.5 pounds! I also found a calculator at http://www.csgnetwork.com/ (not sure of their formula) but the king came out to 122.1 pounds.
Sometimes, folks also use the 800 formula (which is the same as above, just divided by 800 instead of 750) but I think that one is designed more for fish like trout and steelhead and doesn’t really well represent the girth of Gayle’s king. Even underestimated with this method, her fish comes out at an incredible 99.28 pounds.
Okay, so now let’s take a look at how Gayle’s Chinook measures up to fish with known weights. Les Anderson’s IGFA All-Tackle World Record king from the Kenai River in Alaska weighed 97 pounds, 4 ounces and measured 58.5 inches with a girth of 37 inches. Her fish was a bit shorter and a tad bigger around than Anderson’s. The thing with the Kenai fish is Anderson threw it in the bottom of the boat on a hot day and fished for several hours—and then it rode around in the back of his truck for quite a while. It was never iced and the photos of it show the fish is very dehydrated. I think it’s easy to assume that king probably weighed 100 plus pounds when it was initially caught.
In August of 2001, a massive king was caught and released on the Skeena River in B.C. by clients fishing out of Kermode Bear Fishing Lodge in Terrace, BC. That leviathan measured 53.5 x 38.5, which comes out to 105.7 pounds on the 750 formula above (and 99 and change using the 800 formula).
Gayle and John are no strangers to trophy kings. John Gordon about to release a huge king salmon caught at River’s Inlet.
Obviously, we’ll never know the precise weight of Gayle’s fish but it’s safe to say that it was clearly over 100 pounds, which just boggles the mind. A pound here or there in either direction really doesn’t matter—the real story is she caught a fish that would, almost certainly, be the new all-tackle world record, but she decided to forgo the glory and release it instead! In this day and age of declining Chinook stocks—especially the true giants—it was truly a selfless act.
“The culture is changing up there at River’s Inlet,” she says. “Lots and lots of boats are measuring and releasing their big fish now which is great. Really the only way to get IGFA to recognize our fish as a true record was to kill it and I didn’t want to do that. I’m just so humbled to have been able to catch him. It was so cool!”
Sadly, doing a hero shot on board is a tall order with a fish of that size when you’re not keeping it, so the Gordon’s don’t have any good photos of their amazing catch. There are several shots taken from other boats, but they don’t do much justice to this king of kings. What does do it plenty of justice, however, is the fabulous mount that Advanced Taxidermy made of it. As you can imagine, there aren’t a whole lot of fiberglass replica blanks of 105-pound kings laying around, so they had to make a custom mold for Gayle’s fish.
“It’s absolutely amazing…. Advanced really nailed it,” she says. “I feel so blessed—we were obviously fishing for big fish up there but I never dreamed of getting one that size! I caught the fish, but it really was a team effort with my husband John. After that, I gave him the next three chances on the rods in a row.”
The Gordon’s obviously didn’t need any more inspiration to return to River’s Inlet next year, but just to remind them that there are potentially even bigger kings to be caught, owners Rob and Nola Bachen dusted off and showed them the mount of a 126-pound king they had in storage. The enormous king was caught by a commercial boat back in the 1960’s “It was truly an honor to see that fish,” she says.
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