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Angler flies halibut to try to hook prize

8/3/2005

BOZEMAN — A Bozeman man competing in the halibut derby in Homer, Alaska caught his 280-pound fish too late in the day and too far from shore to make it back in time for the weigh-in.

So Travis Huntsinger hired a charter plane for $700 to fly the fish back by the 9 p.m. deadline.

The winner of last year's season-long fishing derby won $50,000.

"If a 275-pound fish would have won it, and we didn't fly it back, we would have been kicking ourselves," said Huntsinger, who spent $200 more to fly the fish to the weigh-in than he paid for his round-trip ticket from Montana.

Huntsinger's fish held the lead for a time, and is now second for the month of July behind a 310-pound fish caught by an Oregon man.

"Even if I end up in third place for the month, the plane ticket will still be a wash," Huntsinger said. "But at least I got a good fishing story out of it."

Huntsinger was about nine hours into the Gulf of Alaska when he landed the 7-foot-long fish at about 3 p.m.

Travis Larson, Huntsinger's college buddy and the owner of Alaska Premier Sportfishing, called his wife from a satellite phone. She tried to locate a faster boat. When she had no luck, they chartered a float plane.

Huntsinger said when they got back into cell phone range, they got a call from someone with the fishing derby who had called the Anchorage Daily News and a couple of TV stations.

"That's why it got to be such a big deal, because nobody had ever seen that way to bring a fish back in."