Angler sets state record by reeling in massive 42-pound rockfish

Angler Keith Degraff poses with a rockfish that officially weighed in at 42.4 pounds that he caught in the Prince William Sound. (Source: KTUU)
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 5:29 PM CDT
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WHITTIER, Alaska (KTUU/Gray News) - A boating trip last month turned into a record-setting day for a former fishing guide in Alaska.

KTUU reports that Keith Degraff was out with some friends in the Prince William Sound when something came his way for the first time in state history.

After three hours in, Degraff reeled in the largest rockfish the state has ever seen from about 1,000 feet deep.

“When I hooked it, it was so big it made me think it was some halibut,” Degraff said. “I couldn’t get the fish’s head over the side of the boat — it was massive.”

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game weighed the fish at 42.4 pounds, breaking the previous record of 39.1 pounds set in 2013. It also came back as about 42 inches in length.

“When I first laid eyes on it, the fish was bigger than my torso and my legs combined,” said Donald Arthur, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “It was the largest rockfish I’ve seen in my 11-year career with the department.”

Degraff said he was surprised by what he hauled in that day.

“Did I know I was going to catch the state record? I’ll be honest and say no, but I was fishing in an area where I have caught bigger-than-average fish before,” he said.

At the time of catch, officials said the fish likely weighed closer to 50 pounds. Degraff put the rockfish on ice and got it officially weighed three days after the catch.

“The sportsman in me prevailed to where I wasn’t willing to risk the quality of meat for the sake of my name on a piece of paper somewhere,” he said.

The fish is estimated to be between 60 and 120 years old, according to officials.

“We do want anglers to be conscientious when they target rockfish,” Arthur said. “In the Prince William Sound, you can only keep one per day and in one possession.”

Originally from the New York area, Degraff and his family have now made Alaska home.

“I’ve said for years — especially when I caught my first one over 36 pounds — I said, ‘the kid from New York is going to catch the Alaska state-record rockfish.’”