The fish of everyone’s dreams was caught by Soldotna auto dealer Les Anderson early on the morning of May 17, 1985, much to his own shock. Anderson and partner Bud Lofstedt were fishing for early-season king salmon on the Kenai River, the world-famous Alaska salmon stream, when Anderson hooked up for the fight of his life.
Anderson, 68 at the time, was using a spin-n-glo and salmon eggs, and the powerful chinook the bait attracted had the muscle to pull Anderson around in his little boat. Three times Anderson reeled the fish up to the side of the craft, but it was too large to haul in. Finally Anderson subdued it by leading it to land.
Once Anderson and Lofstedt gazed upon the full size of the monster lifted from the water, they realized it was imperative that it be weighed as soon as possible before it dried out and too much poundage was lost. Big fish, they thought. But they didn’t know if it was the biggest king of all. They rushed it to a scale in town where onlookers who had heard tell of a giant catch were already gathered. Anderson’s king salmon weighed in at 97 pounds, four ounces — a rod-and-reel world record that still stands.
For the rest of Anderson’s life — he died in 2003 — he was introduced to people as “the man who caught the world-record salmon.” Sometimes, for short, Anderson’s memorable catch was referred to as “the big fish,” with everyone knowing which fish was being talked about.
Today, the mount of Anderson’s record catch is on display at the Soldotna Visitors Association building.
– Lew Freedman