Everyone who goes fishing in Alaska must make time to go after halibut. When it comes to pacific halibut, Alaska is a global leader. During the winter, these fish spend their time in the frigid, deep seas of the Pacific, and during the summer, they follow the salmon up to the shallower waters of Cook Inlet, Kodiak Island, and the bare islands. It’s no exaggeration to call this area of Alaska the halibut fishing capital of the world. These Alaska halibut fishing trips are among the most popular options for our customers.
Cook Inlet has some of the world’s biggest tidal swings, up to 30 feet. Halibut relax on sand and gravel when huge currents rise every 6 hours. When the current dies down, these massive fish rely heavily on their sense of smell to find prey. We use chum bags to emit a large fragrance trail into the ocean, although the procedure depends on the weather and water depth. Aggressive halibut will go far to follow a smell trail.
When It Really Counts
Slack current, when the water is moving at its slowest, is typically the optimum time for fishing. Slack tide is when the water is at its lowest, therefore that’s when we’ll be fishing. We’ll anchor up when the incoming current begins to slow, then drop the chum bag and use weights of up to four pounds to sink circle hooks baited with herring. This may be hundreds of feet deep, or it could be as shallow as forty. As the incoming current begins to weaken, we will be able to gradually reduce our load. Eventually, the current will pick up again, but this time it will be flowing counterclockwise, and we’ll have to gradually add additional weight to the bait to keep it from floating away.
Once the current picks up to its full strength again, it will be challenging to keep the bait on the bottom, and we will begin making our way back to port, hopefully with our halibut quotas met.
Seasons and Restrictions for Fishing for Halibut
The International Pacific Halibut Commission manages halibut fisheries under an international agreement that balances harvest and protection. Therefore, there are limitations in place for fishing in Cook Inlet, Homer, the Kodiak Islands, and The Barren Islands.
You can go halibut fishing between March 14 and November 15.
The most important rules for fishing for halibut in 3A Alaska waters are:
- It is not possible to fish for halibut on a charter vessel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (private boats are okay)
- One halibut every day, of any size, and another, typically under 32 inches in length (about 14 pounds)
- No more than four halibut can be caught in a year by charter boats.
Numbers and Stats on Halibut
- As juveniles, halibut can see out of both of their eyes. As early as week 5, a fish’s eye will begin to move to the opposite side of its body. Today’s halibut will spend the vast bulk of its life on the ocean’s floor, keeping a watchful eye on the surface for potential threats.
- Male halibut require about 8 years and 25-30 pounds to reach sexual maturity, whereas females take 11 years and much longer. They have their reproductive season in extremely deep water during the winter. Depending on the fish’s age and size, they can lay up to four thousand eggs at once.
- The ear bone of a halibut, much like a tree’s, will show annual growth rings, allowing its age to be calculated.
- In today’s market, a pound of halibut can easily cost you over $25. About 40 pounds of fillet, worth $1,000 at today’s market prices, can be harvested from an 80-pound halibut. That’s a wonderful fishing trip with a tonne of tasty dinner options. People have gone halibut fishing in Alaska for a day and brought home enough fillets to weigh hundreds of pounds.
- When they are young, halibut eat mostly plankton; as they mature, they switch to eating other, smaller fish and other prey. After processing, halibut stomachs include herring, clams, crabs, and mussels.
- The halibut has a good survival rate for a fish that dwells so deep in the ocean. To give an example, halibut differ from rockfish in that they do not have a swim bladder and are hence immune to barotrauma. Alaska mandates all fishing vessels to have a deep release mechanism to reduce bycatch.
- We can net 20-lb halibut. Gaffe or harpoon 20-100-pound fish. 100-pound animals are shot to prevent equipment damage. Instead of bullets, the guns use a rod that releases a charge when it hits the halibut.