If you’ve ever gone fishing, then you probably know what it feels like to catch a big one only to lose it as you reel it in. A Friday Harbor man recently had this experience, but there’s much more to this whale of a tale.
Kevin Klein and his fishing companion were out on the water on July 13, in the deep waters of Harro Strait, between San Juan and Vancouver islands.
They were on the hunt for a big King Salmon so they could take home the $5,000 prize for the Bellingham Salmon Derby.
They weren't out very long when they hooked what Klein calls “a very big fish.”
“Just about took all the line off my reel,” he said. They had hooked a King.
The catch was big enough to get the attention of a nearby male orca whale. The resident “L” pod was about a quarter-mile away.
Do you see where this is going?
The orca quickly closed that quarter-mile gap. The salmon made a run down to the bottom, followed by the whale. A short time later, Klein’s fishing line went slack.
The orca had eaten everything but the head.
“The first thing when the head came across the rail, we just looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, look at the size of the thing!'” said Klein.
The head itself weighed more than 5 pounds. Based on that size, Klein believes the fish must have been at least 40 pounds.
The King that ended up winning the fishing tournament weighed 30 pounds, and took home the prize money.
“So we were looking at the head of a salmon that probably was worth $5,000,” said Klein.
Orcas occasionally steal fish from lines up in Alaska, but it’s rare occurrence in Washington waters. In fact, curators at the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor say they’ve never heard of something like this happening here.
If you’re wondering what attracted that big King in the first place, Klein used metal flashers, spoons, and hoochies, which are plastic squids.