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Dennis Hall stands by his 81-pound king salmon he caught recently on a trip to Alaska.

Fargo man lands large salmon

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HOMER, Alaska -- Dennis Hall caught a near record king salmon during a recent fishing trip.

And it almost didn't happen.

Hall, who was on a charter fishing trip on the Kenai River, nearly caught his limit early in the day.

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In what turned out to be a lucky break, that fish got away.

The second one didn't.

"The irony of it was, I had one on earlier in the day," said Hall, a former publisher of the Daily Globe who is now a vice president with its parent company, Forum Communications Co. "You're only allowed one per day and two for the whole season, I guess. I had one on and it literally bit my hook in half. So I lost that one and then I got this one on and I was able to bring it in."

The king salmon he landed measured 33 inches around, 55 inches long and weighed more than 81 pounds, making it one of the largest fish taken from the river.

"The thing fought and fought," Hall said. "It took just around 30 minutes to bring it in. They have this chart where you do all the measurements and then it charts out what it weighs, and it was 81.9 on the chart. About four hours later, we pulled into a lodge and it weighed 78 pounds. They say it loses about four pounds of blood and water. But it was a beautiful fish, just a gorgeous fish. It was a lot of fun bringing it in."

Hall was on a trip with three others, Glen Gust, from Luverne; Kevin Jorgenson from Grand Island, Neb.; and Roger Oltmann from Sioux Falls, S.D. as part of a charter fish with Alaskan Game Fisher.

Landing the monster fish was truly a team effort.

"I was concentrating on reeling it in, I could barely turn the reel," Hall said. "I had the drag on and it was taking line like you wouldn't believe. The thing came out of the water and these guys' eyes got big and they said, 'That is a big fish.' Everybody's in this boat, so everybody's helping to get out of way because I had to run to the front of the boat, run to the back of the boat and then it dove down by the motor. It took me about 30 minutes to land the fish. We traveled down the river about three and-a-half miles. The current was taking us down, but we were just chasing this fish. I just didn't want to lose this son of a gun. In fact, I have a huge blister on my thumb trying to reel that thing in."

Not long after Hall set the hook, he knew he had a big one on the other end of the line.

"When Glen Gust turned to me, his eyes were as big as half dollars," Hall said. "Then the pressure was on. I said, 'I can't lose this thing.' Of course the guide, Bruce Hewitt, said that was the biggest fish he's ever had in his boat by like 20 pounds. I didn't want to disappoint people, either. You have this thing on, you don't want to lose it. I'll admit, there was one point about 25 minutes into it, I couldn't crank the thing any more. I almost handed it off to Glen and said, 'Bring him in.' But then I said, 'I'm going to bring this thing in myself.' He wouldn't have taken it anyway."

He landed the fish on Wednesday, July 29 at 7 a.m., ending his fishing day.

"At that point, I was done fishing, but I got to gloat the whole day," Hall said. "It was just a beautiful fish."

The king salmon was then put in the livewell. Hall took the fish to a taxidermist, where it is currently being mounted.

"The guides were saying, 'You have to mount this. You don't understand what you've got here. This is a fish of a lifetime; you'll never catch another fish like this,'" Hall said. "My living room isn't full of head mounts and all that stuff, so I'll have to find a place. I thought it would be fun to show my grandkids some day that look what grandpa caught up in Alaska."

While the world record is 97 pounds -- around 15 more than Hall's fish -- that didn't stop the news from traveling quickly. By Saturday, the news had reached other parts of the U.S.

"I was talking to my daughter who lives in Washington state, and they were out on the river and they heard these guys talking about fishing," Hall said. "She said, 'Well, my dad caught an 81-pounder on the Kenai River up in Alaska.' They said, 'Your dad is the one that caught that? We heard about that.' The news had traveled all the way there already."

Not bad for a self-described novice fisherman and the first king salmon of his life.

"I certainly can be classified as a novice; I'm certainly not a pro," Hall said. "There was a lot of luck involved and a lot of help and coaching by the other guys.

"I love to fish. I don't do a lot of it, but I've been up to Canada and I've done some other fishing. But to be able to boat something like this was really a team effort of all the guys and the guide keeping the boat going toward the fish."

With a trophy fish, which will some day will grace his living room wall, and a story to tell, Hall knows this was a rare feat.

"People fish a lifetime and never have the opportunity to catch a fish like that," he said.

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