Doug MacFarlane with a 400-pound halibut – a gift from fisherman Danny Hegglund. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: A payback of Halibut

Elida Peers | Contributed

What a payback!

There was a night back three or four decades ago when tugboat owner Doug MacFarlane got a call from fisherman Danny Hegglund.

A fellow fisherman, Jack Egland, was in distress out in the harbour, his dragger Ocean King stuck on a sandbar, and Danny alerted the tugboat man to come help get him out of the mud.

The thing was, Egland had to get his boat to Vancouver to unload his catch first thing in the morning.

The way Doug MacFarlane remembers the story, he received a call from dragger owner Jack Egland a few days later, wondering how to repay him for his emergency assistance.

Doug said “No problem, I don’t need anything, we all help each other.” At Egland’s persistence, Doug finally responded, “Okay, why don’t you get me a little fish?”

Draggers use a system of nets, winches and hundreds of feet of cables, extended from the stern of the vessel. These vessels can drag either at mid-water or at the bottom, scooping whatever they come across. The net is then pulled up onto the deck by the winches and drums and unloaded. In some cases, scooping up a halibut would have been incidental to their purpose.

So, the next time Egland got back from fishing in Queen Charlotte Sound, he and his boat crew called Doug and asked him to come down to the Government Wharf to pick up his fish. Doug obligingly got a cardboard box to collect his fish in, and when he got to the wharf, he was met with chuckles.

Next thing he knew, the boom of the dragger Ocean King lifted up this gigantic halibut, looking like it weighed about four hundred pounds. Longtime marine character Ed Pallister came out of his emporium exclaiming “Wow! What a fish!”

The fellows managed to get the monster into Doug’s van, enabling him to get it to his home where he could begin cutting it up. It all ended up in his freezer; he says he doesn’t remember how many wheelbarrow loads.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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