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Curse hits Prisaznuk

He's lived in Alaska for 15 years now, but he can't escape his Buffalo roots.

Dan Prisaznuk believes he is cursed.

The 340.6-pound halibut he pulled into his boat on June 25 was nearly triple his best catch prior to it (116 pounds), and was good enough to take over the top spot at the season-long Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby -- for three days.

Jerry Saunders stole Prisaznuk's spotlight on June 28 with a 358.4-pound catch, the third largest in the derby's 22-year history.

"Guys that have been here for 20 and 30 years are just absolutely shocked that another 300-pounder was caught within three days," said Prisaznuk. "It's like the biggest news in the state. I told them I got the Buffalo jinx, with the Bills losing four Super Bowls, and the Sabres, well, you know."

The Homer Derby provides Alaska's richest prize, with the winner expected to collect between $40,000 and $45,000. The derby ends Sept. 30.

Prisaznuk fought the big hen halibut for an hour and a half, appreciating the assistance of three others on the boat with him.

"It was rock-solid heavy," he said. "I knew it was over 100 pounds but I had no idea it was that big. I was more concerned with bringing it in to the boat than the size of it. When we did bring it to the boat, and I saw the size of it in the water, it was a monster."

Without a tape measure on the boat, Prisaznuk walked the distance of the fish, estimating it to be about seven-and-a-half-feet long. From radioing other charters, he learned the fish was likely over 300 pounds.

"Everyone's been asking me what it's like to bring up a 300-pound fish, and I'm just like, 'You have to do it real slow,' Prisaznuk said. "You're only going to give it one or two cranks on the reel, but then you take a rest and she'd spin out two or three of them.

"At the beginning it was a struggle, the thing was very active and alive. After an hour it started to tire out. It was quite the experience. I'm having the tail mounted and have a lot of stories to tell my family and friends in Buffalo."

The fish measured in at 8 feet, 1 inch, the biggest Prisaznuk had ever seen in person, let alone caught. At 5-foot-5 and 190 pounds himself, Prisaznuk said those who saw him posing for a picture said he "looked like a midget next to it."

Prisaznuk moved to Homer 15 years ago with the tempting waters at the forefront of his decision. He took a two-week vacation to Alaska in 1992 and decided to stay, chartering boats for several summers before taking a "real job" as a North Slope oil worker, he said.

Even though he made the cross-country and cross-border trek with fairly high expectations, Prisaznuk said this catch exceeded all the fish tales he had considered possible. Having done this at age 45, Prisaznuk struggles to think of what's next for him.

"Maybe one of the big sail fish or marlins in Costa Rica or something like that," he said.


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