Saturday, May 21, 2011

Halibut fishing - I have to try this!

I keep reading about halibut fishing in BC and Alaska.  They are even doing pretty well with halibut out at Neah Bay and on the Straits.  Since we are heading to Alaska.... Time to learn more!

These can be from 30 to 300 pounds!

I grew up in the Seattle area in the 1970's and as such never did well salmon fishing.  The few times we went to Westport for a charter were a real blast, as we actually caught fish.  Puget Sound fishing for me was more about dogfish and drifting around Jeff Head or Possession.  It never dawned on me that nobody I fished with knew what they were doing... Sorry dad.

The internet really brings a great many resources to your fingertips, so this is how I have learned about fishing for halibut in Alaska.  Every internet resource has a slightly different twist but I think I have a general consensus which I am going to go with.  This is a good site.

Pacific Halibut are a slow growing bottom fish that enjoy salmon carcass, herring and squid.  They live at depths between 50 and 900 feet deep.  I think we will try for fish in the 100-200 foot depth range.  Because of the great depth it is easiest at slack tides so that the current does not affect the line as much.  Sounds like most use 80lb test modern braided lines to minimize the diameter and hence the current sweep.   The line is attached to a "Halibut Spreader" which is a stainless right-angle with a 1-4lb weight on the short angle and your halibut leader on the long angle.  The leader is wire with "circle hooks" that are suppose to keep the fish on the hook much better.  Bait with herring, octopus or fake squid, I also read that they enjoy a salmon head.

Halibut spreader with lead weight and some scent - looks tasty!

The pole used is a short stiff pole, generally about 5  feet in length with a larger reel.  The fishing is done from a drifting or anchored boat, you must need a pretty good anchor package for those depths.  Drop the weighted halibut rig to the bottom and then bring her up a few cranks.  You want the lead ball to bounce along the bottom.  My goal would be something in the 50-pound range, any larger and I don't know what I would do with it.  The American Tugs do have good freezer capacity! 

When the halibut hits it is suppose to be kind of gentle,  but sometimes they run a short distance.  You crank them to the surface.  The fish are flat and don't fight too much.   Once you muscle their heads towards the surface just keep cranking.  I was told it is like you have hooked an old tire.  Once they get to the surface watch out as  they are pure muscle.  A mad 120-pound fish fighting for its life can really damage your boat.  The technique is to harpoon or gaff and tie them off to the boat and let the fish expire, bleed them out asap. 

As a yacht broker I have heard stories of selling boats with holes in the swim steps.  When the owner is asked about the holes..."bullets from shooting a halibut!"  Still have not sold that boat myself. 

Wish me luck!   If you have firsthand experience or any tips, as always please help me out.

This looks really wonderful.  Here is the recipe.