Lisa Stengel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Weighs a halibut on Monday, July 12, 2021 at Coal Point Seafoods in Homer, Alaska, which she caught with a perch while free diving in Kachemak Bay. If verified, the 71.4 pound halibut would be the International Underwater Spearfishing Association world record for a Pacific halibut captured by a female using a pole spear. (Photo by Michael Armstrong / Homer News)
A fisherman pulling a rod and reel at a nearly 72-pound halibut might make a social media post, but the big fish Lisa Stengel caught on Monday stood out for the way she caught it, not just for its size.
Stengel, 32, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Landed his 71.4-pound Pacific Halibut with a spear as he drove freely 25 feet deep in 45-degree water against a 5-knot current. If verified by the International Underwater Spearfishing Association, this feat will put her in the record books for the largest halibut caught by a woman using a pole spear.
In fact, there’s no record yet for a woman who caught a halibut with a pole, so Stengel didn’t just set the record, she “sets the bar pretty high,” said co-owner Brad Conley. with his wife, Lisa, of Coldwater AK, a Homer water taxi and a guiding service that took Stengel and his friends on a spearfishing expedition this month.
Stengel fished with Captain Brian Reid on Castle Cape. The largest fish of any species caught with a perch spear by a female is a 66.1 pound black grouper.
“The hardest part was fighting the current,” Stengel said Monday afternoon as she waited to weigh her fish at Coal Point Seafoods. “You have to get a really good shot to hold it. It was a perfect shot, right in the head.
Stengel’s halibut was almost as long as it is tall. While some people use spear guns to snorkel, Stengel got his halibut with more difficult equipment, a slingshot spear with a sliding tip, a small harpoon head that pierces the flesh of the fish. The fisherman pulls on a big rubber band that wraps around the post – the slingshot – and is released with the spear.
Attached by a short cable to the spear shank, the sliding tip detaches and holds firmly in the fish. A modern adaptation of the centuries-old Inuit rocking harpoon, pulling back with the pole and line fixes the sliding tip. Stengel had attached his equipment to a large buoy so he wouldn’t get lost if the halibut snatched it away.
It’s part of the fun and challenge of underwater halibut fishing, Conley said. Some of his clients have caught 100-pound halibut.
“You realize how humiliating it is in the water with these big, powerful fish. They have so much torque and power,” he said. “… That’s what is so about it. owl at Lisa’s. She’s that little, little lady. For her, facing a fish almost as big as she is is an impressive feat.
Conley called the difference between spearfishing and a pole spear as the difference between hunting with a rifle and hunting with a bow.
Once the fish is speared, “from that point on it fights it on the surface, I guess like a rod and reel,” Conley said. “You are in the water, your physical strength is trying to convince them to reach the top. Those big fish, you take them to the top and they’ll run over you, and you’re in the game.
On top of that, Stengel caught his fish while free diving or without any scuba gear. In Alaska, snorkelers wear suits with balaclavas, masks and snorkels, weight belts, and fins almost as long as a person’s legs.
Stengel said she started scuba diving with scuba gear and then started snorkeling. She fished in South Florida for wahoo and other species.
“It’s a lot less gear,” she said of snorkeling. “I like it better.”
Coldwater AK has carved out a place for itself in the halibut charter fleet. Conley, Reid, and a few other locals have become experienced snorkelers and spear fishermen. Some will dive for up to two minutes in 100 feet to hunt for redfish.
As a guided halibut sport fishing operation, Coldwater AK works just like the more traditional rod and reel fishing.
“As for everyone, we’re going to fish like all the other halibut charters, just doing it a little differently,” Conley said.
Other charter captains encouraged Coldwater AK’s fishing technique.
“Because of the way we do it, they know we’re not competing with them,” Conley said. “They know we’re not going to clean up an area. We are in kelp beds and shallow water.
Stengel works as a second for a private yacht. She first came to Alaska on a trip to the Southeast.
“When I did that, I said, ‘I want to fish here,’” she said of this visit.
She came with a group of friends from Florida. Conley said his group is typical of the type of clients he sees – experienced snorkelers who want to explore the waters of Alaska. It takes some getting used to, he said.
“Alaska is an extremely difficult place to dive. It’s not just cold water. These are currents, ”he said. “… A lot of divers are extremely skilled divers, but it takes them two or three days to get used to the water. … Things are starting to click. Suddenly they shoot big fish.
Contact Michael Armstrong at [email protected]