"Oh right on!" were the first words to come out of Dan Weatherby's mouth when he learned he won the 2016 Port Alberni Salmon Festival with his 53.2-pounder.
The Chilliwack resident caught the salmon in his second-ever Salmon Fest entry on Saturday, Sept. 3 near Brady's Beach in Bamfield. It's the biggest fish to be caught in the salmon derby since 1991 and the fourth-largest in the festival's 45-year history.
Along with his 11-year-old son Ty and friends Nelson MacMorran and Bruce Tierann, Weatherby wrestled in the 53-pounder (pictured below at right) using a Silver Horde Cookies and Cream spoon lure.
"The fight lasted for about half-an-hour. It was the biggest salmon I've ever caught," said Weatherby.
"Rather than bringing the fish to the boat we were bringing the boat to the fish. It was pulling and pulling. It started pushing across the surface and I could see the tail on it and it just looked massive. It just kept taking off and then we thought we should chase it with the boat."
They almost lost it in that half-hour fight.
"Nels missed it with the net on the first attempt and our hearts almost stopped!" Weatherby said with a laugh.
Weatherby, who's only entered the derby once before, comes out fishing near Port Alberni a few times a year—but hasn't ever caught a salmon near this size.
"Usually it's coho between 8-14 lbs and then springs up to 20 lbs. I've done lots of fishing on the Fraser River but this one is going to stand out in my mind because it was just so big and so silver."
But while $15,000 and the fame of catching the fourth largest derby winner ever is quite the prize, the best part of the festival for Weatherby was sharing it with his son Ty.
"The best thing was that my 11-year-old son Ty was with me so to experience that with him is going to be a lifelong memory for both him and myself," said Weatherby.
"He said it's the best summer adventure he's ever had."