Some of my earliest memories from childhood were on my father’s fishing boat. Fishing is a great way to get outdoors, bond with family and friends, and catch tasty fish. Alaska is famous for its lavish waters and world-class halibut. Here are some tips on how to catch one worth bringing home.
Things To Look For
The Secret Spot
The location you choose to drop anchor essentially makes it or breaks it. Choose wisely. Halibut tend to hang out near trenches, ledges, and pinnacles. Also, these fish hang out and hide in sandy bottoms. You can use a depth finder to locate these spots, or if you’re old fashioned, a map will work, too.
When I go fishing, we tend to go to typical popular local hot spots, look for sandy bottom, and drop our lines. I prefer water depth under 100 feet because reeling your line in that deep takes long enough even without a halibut hooked on!
Choosing the Best Bait
Hands down, the best bait you can use for halibut is fresh bait. Just like you wanting your bread fresh from the bakery, a fish likes his food fresh from the ocean. While frozen herring bought from the Walmart freezer department is acceptable, it’s really not that great if you’re serious about catching a nice-sized halibut. Fishermen typically use octopus, squid, salmon heads, and herring to bait their hooks. And keep in mind the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish. Small halibut can’t bite on to whole salmon heads, so by using bigger bait ,you are keeping the small ones at bay.
Some avid fishermen like to fill a mesh bag full of fresh fish guts and cornmeal and tie it to their anchor line. A halibut has an impeccable sense of smell, so the more bait you have in the water the better.
My family always catches about a dozen or so herring right outside the harbor before we head out to our secret spots. We cut the herring in half and bait two hooks per line. We’re not necessarily aiming for the biggest fish in the sea, but we are able to catch many small to medium sized halibut this way.
The Long Wait
Sitting there and anticipating the big bite is half the fun. Sometimes we can doze off for an hour or two and while zoning out, leaving the hook just sitting on the bottom. This is how you catch a halibut, but remember to occasionally jig your line up and down to make sure a star fish hasn’t latched on to your bait. Skates sometimes eat your bait too and because they just sort of sit there and don’t put up a fight you might not even know they’re hogging your bait till you start reeling!
Timing Is Key
Halibut feed when the tide changes. Grab a tide book and make sure your hooks are baited and ready to go at tide shift.
The Big Bite
Whenever we bring a friend from out-of-state fishing with us, they always fall into the trap of yanking the pole up as soon as they feel a bite. This might work when you’re trying to snag some other type of fish, but not with halibut. All it does is yank the bait right out of their mouth and scare them away. Wait until your pole tip dips down and you feel several strong tugs before slowly bringing in your line.
If you want a great picture and story to bring back to friends at home, you’re probably aiming for a legendary 300 pounder. However, locals don’t like them that big. Chicken halibut, those less than 80 pounds, according to my family, are best because their fillet meat is the perfect thickness for cooking. Bigger halibut can be older and their meat isn’t necessarily that great compared to that of a young and fresh chicken. Locals also like to let the big ones go because we call them “the breeders.” After all, big halibut breed more big halibut.
I have gone halibut fishing every summer with my family for as long as I can remember. It’s relaxing, fun, and there certainly is an art to catching the perfect sized halibut for your desire. Now get out there and fish on!