10 Tips For Great Halibut Fishing in Ketchikan

Halibut fishing in Ketchikan Alaska are a lot of fun to catch!

If you want to make the most of one of the best fishing experiences the world has to offer, look no further than halibut fishing in Ketchikan.

While halibut are plentiful throughout Alaska, they can be a difficult fish to snag, but these 10 tips for great halibut fishing in Ketchikan will land you that perfect catch!

Halibut Fishing in Ketchikan Alaska with Oasis Alaska Charters


1. Use a chum bag

Most Alaska halibut are caught at anchor.

Anchoring helps the boat stay around a promising halibut hole, and with chum, helps create a strong scent trail to attract the fish in your direction.

Halibut use scent, sight, and sound to navigate towards food, but they primarily focus on scents, so it’s important not to underestimate the power of chum in halibut fishing.

Tie a mesh (or similar) chum bag to the anchor using leftover bait or salmon remnants from cleaning. The fresher and bloodier the better. Since halibut are predators, frozen bait may not be as effective.

For added effect, you can increase the scent by marinating your chum bags in a mix of Pautzke green nectar and liquid Krill before you head to the fishing grounds.

2. Use fillets, rather than steaks, as bait

Halibut love herring, and it’s one of the most popular baits.

Some use the whole herring, while others use steaks. However, not many know that fillets release much more scent into the water than whole herring or even steaks, and will produce more aggressive bites.

Use a whole side fillet from the biggest herring available, and replace them every 20 minutes or so, always keeping at least one in the water at all times during bait changes to maximize the scent trail.

3. Try using salmon

Salmon has long since been used as bait in Sitka but is still underappreciated for halibut fishing in Ketchikan.

Use a combination of salmon and herring all the time. When halibut are keying on salmon, they are sometimes known to ignore other baits.

4. Be patient

Unless you’re jigging, halibut strikes can take some time.

Allow a moment for the fish to eat some of the bait before trying to set the hook.

Circle hooks are key for halibut fishing in Ketchikan because once hooked, you’ll rarely if ever, lose the fish. Lower the bait to the bottom, reel in a few cranks, and then set the rod and wait for a fish to strike.

Don’t jump to action as soon as you see the rod start jumping up and down. Wait until the tip is bent over and the fish is almost taking the line. Lift up to finish driving the hook into place.

If you jerk or lift up too soon, the hook has a chance of being pulled away from the fish’s mouth.

5. Keep your hooks sharp

We keep our equipment in the best shape at all times, but if you’re striking out on your own, beware of dull hooks.

Even hooks that have been in use for a couple of trips will get you short bites because it can take considerable pressure to actually penetrate the jaw of a halibut, and a dull hook can’t do the job.

6. Run one jig

If there is any current where you are fishing, run a jig from the stern.

Don’t bother with multiple jigs since it can result in tangles and other inconveniences.

As the halibut move in on your scent trail, they’ll often be attracted to the jig. Adding a small piece of salmon or herring to a jig will give you a little bit more time to set the hook.

A jig can also be a good indicator of how many fish are in the area, and if you aren’t getting any action as you bounce the jig down the current, it might be time to pick up and head elsewhere.

7. Big bait for big fish

If you’re not having great luck, or if you’re only getting small fish, it can be common practice to replace smaller bait with whole salmon heads.

Big halibut love big bait. Don’t forget to let the halibut take the head completely so you can get a solid hookup.

Smaller halibut will leave a salmon head alone, so if you get one on a whole head, it will likely be big.

But using salmon heads and baiting bigger fish requires patience since bigger fish are usually the last to approach your scent trail.

8. Fish a few off of the bottom

Halibut are bottom dwellers, but you can beat the game by targeting those that have moved off the bottom to feed.

They’ll be more active because they are actually on the hunt above the ground where you usually fish. Rig up with bait, lower to the bottom, and then reel up a good 15-20 feet off the floor.

9. Know your seasons and your spots for great halibut fishing in Ketchikan

During the summer, you might start getting halibut only 10 or 20 minutes away from the dock, but the rest of the time you might have better luck running about 45 minutes to an hour out, and a two-hour run will be like shooting fish in a barrel.  Check out our rates for a great trip.

The season for halibut fishing in Ketchikan is long, from February to December, and you should have no problem catching lots in that span.

Near ports, lodges, and harbor towns, some of the halibut have been depleted. Don’t deter because they’re still out there in hordes, you just need to find the right spot.

10. Know when to move

If you keep catching dogfish or skates, which are known for swimming in big circles around all of your lines, you might still be in halibut area but will get more consistently what you’re looking for if you move away to a new area.

You want to avoid losing a quality halibut because a dogfish has frayed your line.

In closing, if you understand the techniques for successful halibut fishing in Ketchikan, you won’t be disappointed, but simply hooking some bait will not get you your halibut.

This is just an overview of these top 10 techniques, but it’s okay if you’re overwhelmed. We will coach you through all of it on your halibut charter.

Oasis Alaska Charters provide guided halibut fishing in Ketchikan for both small and large groups. Click here to learn more about halibut in Ketchikan and our charters, or contact us if you’re ready to schedule a trip or if you have any questions!

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