A Beginner’s Guide to Alaskan Halibut Fishing
Are you a fan of halibut and want to start catching your own? There’s no better place than Alaska! The north-western state provides some of the biggest and best halibut anywhere in the world. Keep these things in mind as you plan your fishing trip:
Halibut charters are practically everywhere in Alaska. If you prefer a big city scene, make your base camp in Anchorage, Juneau, or Fairbanks. If you’d rather visit a small, quiet fishing town, choose somewhere like Homer, Seward, or Ketchikan.
Halibut fishing season extends from May to September, so you have plenty of time to work with. Don’t try your luck before or after these dates, though—halibut spend summers in the shallower waters in bays and near shores, but come colder weather it’s back to the deep sea.
Since halibut can range anywhere from 30 pounds to 300 or more, you want your gear to be flexible. Make sure to get a strong rod (6 to 7 feet) that’s unlikely to snap, and a line that will stretch a little. Choose either a J-hook or a circle hook. The best bait is fresh herring—it’s tough and will stay on your hook, and the halibut are attracted by its smell. You can pick from thousands of lures; there’s not really one type that seems to work better than the others.
Halibut typically swim near the bottom of the water, so weight your line so that it falls a few feet from the sea floor. Gently move the bait back and forth to attract the fish. Once a halibut bites, wait until your line goes tight before you start to reel. Then set your hook and start to pull up the line. Once the fish is near the surface, harpoon it; as it loses blood, the halibut will grow tired of fighting. You definitely don’t want a hundred-pound fish thrashing around in your boat, so wait until it’s gone still before bringing it into the boat. Keep the dead fish on ice if possible.
Halibut fishing requires patience. Some of the fish are so heavy that it takes a long time to bring them to the surface, and it can feel like you’re fishing for anvils. Don’t get frustrated if it takes you 10-15 minutes to reel it in. Also, make sure to use caution! These fish can be larger than humans, so don’t underestimate them. But a well-fought battle can make the victory even more satisfying—plus, you’ll have delicious dinners for weeks!