Six months ago, Baldwinsville native Mike Smiley left for Alaska to work – and for some other activities, like tournament fishing.
That peaked, in more ways than one, on June 24 in Seward, Alaska, where Smiley snagged the biggest catch in the annual Halibut Tournament conducted by the Seward Chamber of Commerce.
Business had brought Smiley to Alaska, as he assisted in the start-up of a power plant that churns out 183 megawatts. With time in between all those stints, Smiley joined Alaska Native Woody Wedin and, with $352 each, bought a fishing charter, ProFish-n-Sea. Among the buyers was John White, a former Westmoreland resident.
While they were at it, Smiley and Wedin both ponied up $10 to enter the Halibut Tournament. As they fished on June 24, the top fish in the month-long tournament caught was 194.8 pounds, done by Seward native Chris Bautsch.
In all, six men were on ProFish-n-Sea, and four of them had caught their limit for the day. Just as Smiley was releasing a halibut of 35 pounds, and just before all were set to return to shore following 12 hours on the water, Smiley said he felt a bigger tug on his line, and White felt the same tug.
After a 15-minute struggle, Smiley brought the fish board the boat. It measured 196.6 pounds, nearly two pounds better than what Bautsch had caught.
No one else would catch one better than 187 pounds. And that would hold up the rest of the way, Smiley earning $10,000 for his big catch.