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7/25/2013
A tall tail (and everything else): Ruaro hooks Ketchikan Halibut Derby winner
HALIBUT DERBY WINNER — Rick Ruaro stands with the 232.2-pound halibut that he caught July 14 to win the 2013 Ketchikan Halibut Derby. Ruaro was able to get the derby-winning fish to the weigh-in station at Cedars Lodge just before the station closed for the weekend. See "A tall tail (and everything else)" under Ketchikan Headlines below. Photo courtesy of Rick Ruaro


By SCOTT BOWLEN

Daily News Staff Writer

Rick Ruaro has won the 2013 Ketchikan Halibut Derby with a 232.2-pound halibut caught south of town on July 14.

Ruaro managed to get the fish to the official weigh-in station at Cedars Lodge at 6:42 p.m. that day, just minutes before the weigh-in stations closed to end the second of three derby fishing weekends.

No other fish came close to challenging Ruaro’s for the overall win, although Kristel Mitchel landed a 182.7-pound halibut on Saturday during the third and final derby weekend. The third largest derby fish overall was a 126.6-pound halibut caught by Hunter Mathews, age 10, during the derby’s first weekend.

With the largest fish overall, Ruaro has won the derby’s top prize of $2,500 cash.

The derby’s all-angler hidden-weight prize was won by Jessica Mathews, whose 91.8-pound halibut came closest to the 92-pound hidden weight, according to derby information

Cheri Trudeau won the hidden-weight prize for lady anglers, with a 99.2-pound halibut that came closest to the 99.5-pound hidden weight, according to derby information. The hidden-weight prize for youth anglers aged 15 and below was won by Mikail Bolshakoff with a 34-pounder that came in near the 33-pound hidden weight.

The 2013 Ketchikan Halibut Derby was organized by the Southern Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association, which uses derby proceeds for educational scholarships and its builders care home improvement projects.

SSEABIA Executive Officer Charmaine Pattison said derby tickets will continue to be available up through the derby family picnic that starts at 1 p.m. Sunday at Ward Lake. All derby ticket holders are eligible for the $1,000 cash drawing to be held at the picnic. Contact Pattison for further details.

Pattison said 88 halibut were weighed in during the third derby weekend. The daily drawing winners for the weekend were Kristal Mitchel on Saturday, and Mike Carney on Sunday.

Ruaro said the 232.2-pound fish was the largest halibut that he’s caught by at least 140 pounds.

He said he was fishing with his wife, Patty Ruaro, and good friend, Don Nickich, throughout the day on July 14 in an area farther south of town than he usually fishes.

They’d caught small halibut and were getting ready to leave just before 4 p.m. when Patty Ruaro noticed that something was on Rick’s line.

"So I went back there and got it — and I knew it wasn't a small one," Rick Ruaro said.

The bait had been at a depth of about 300 feet. The fish didn’t want to budge.

"It was a stalemate for like 60 minutes," Ruaro said. "It wasn’t coming up; it wasn’t going down. I had tension on the rod, and was trying not to overplay it and snap my line."

The halibut would make two runs up, putting slack into the line for a few seconds while Ruaro worked the reel to get the slack back out.

"I thought I lost it twice, and I cranked it up and it was still there," Ruaro said.

After about 75 minutes, the big halibut had come up to the boat.

"It didn't come up flat," Ruaro said. "It just came up mouth first. We looked over the side and all we saw was the big mouth."

At this point, Ruaro said he was calculating the running times to reach a derby weigh-in station before the stations closed at 7 p.m. for the weekend

"I'm thinking, we’ve still got about an hour-plus to get back to town," he said. "‘Now it was just a race to just get it in the boat and start heading back in to town. I didn't want to be the guy that had the big fish and got there too late to turn it in."

But how to get a 200-pound-plus fish into the boat?

Nickich helped spear the fish, which then was hoisted up and into the vessel.

"I actually have to give a lot of kudos to my good friend Don Nickich — he’s the one who helped us get that thing on board," Ruaro said. "I’ve seen a lot of fish come up to the side of the boat and lose them there. ... I feel pretty fortunate to have had good help.

With the halibut on board, the race for town was on.

Ruaro said they first went to Mountain Point. When they saw that the boat ramp there was full of end-of weekend traffic, they decided to run to Cedars Lodge in town.

"We blasted down the channel to Cedars and got (the halibut) turned in at 6:42 (p.m.)," Ruaro said.

At 232.2 pounds, the halibut proved large enough to make Ruaro the 2013 Ketchikan Halibut Derby champion.

Looking back, Ruaro knows how many things could have turned out differently.

"That's way too close," he said Monday. "Anything one way or the other — not getting it up fast enough, or not being landed quick enough — and we miss it."