Keith Degraff, a seasoned port captain and former fishing guide, embarked on a fateful fishing expedition on July 28th in Prince William Sound. On this particular day, his focus shifted from pleasing clients to pursuing a record-setting catch. With meticulous planning behind him, Degraff headed out with his fiancée and friends, aiming for success.
In a mere three hours and two drifts, Degraff reeled in a colossal rockfish from the depths, shattering the state record. The fish, weighing a staggering 42.4 pounds and measuring around 42 inches in length, surpassed the previous 2013 record of 39.1 pounds.
Even seasoned professionals were astounded by the catch. Donald Arthur, Assistant Area Management Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, remarked that the rockfish was the largest he had encountered in his 11-year career.
Interestingly, Degraff’s catch was unexpected, as he was angling for different species. He reflected on the irony of the situation, stating, “I was fishing in a way that I could catch something other than a rockfish.” Nevertheless, the waters had other plans, presenting him with this remarkable achievement.
Degraff’s commitment to quality was evident when he decided to preserve the fish’s meat rather than maximize its immediate weight for record purposes. The fish, believed to be between 60 and 120 years old, will undergo further assessment for its exact age using its otolith, comparable to tree rings.
As a responsible angler, Degraff urged conservation efforts for rockfish species due to their slow growth and long life spans. ADF&G encourages mindful angling to preserve these species, with limited bag limits and considerations for deep-water releases.
Originally from Long Island, Degraff and his family have found a home in Alaska, where his passion for fishing thrives. With his name etched in the record books, he stands as a testament to the unexpected triumphs that fishing can bring.