Oasis Alaska Charters of Ketchikan, Alaska discusses some techniques any angler can use to ensure a successful halibut fishing trip
Pretty much everyone knows how Alaska is one of the world’s top fishing destinations. The Pacific Halibut is one of the most popular species for both recreational and commercial fishermen, and has also been a dietary staple for native Alaskan villages for centuries.
“One of our client’s largest Halibut catches – an astounding 333 pounds!”
Too often though, visitors will come to Ketchikan Alaska with big dreams of catching a lot of Halibut just to go home disappointed. Understanding techniques specific to Halibut is crucial for ensuring you maximize your catch. Despite their plentiful numbers, simply rigging some bait and throwing it in the water is not enough.
Below are a few techniques veteran Halibut anglers in Ketchikan Alaska and all of Alaska have used to locate, hook and land Halibut.
Halibut in Ketchikan Alaska and throughout the Pacific Northwest find their food through sight and sound, but primarily through smell
In shallower waters close to the coast, Halibut will use sight and sound to find their food. In deeper water though, smell is the primary way. Creating a strong scent trail either through live bait or artificial scents (…or a combination of the two) is key to attracting Halibut to your bait.
Since creating a scent trail is so important for attracting Halibut, anchoring and staying in one spot is a must.
Many novice Halibut anglers go wrong on this very important step. Attracting Halibut with the scent of your bait and “chum” takes a little time, so be patient and allow the process to work. One way many charters and veteran anglers create a strong scent trail is to throw a bag full of old salmon heads, guts and leftover bait overboard (a.k.a. chum) and let it soak in the water around the boat. For your rig, circle hooks sized 16/0 to 22/0 are considered to be the best since they generally hook in the corner of the fish’s mouth. Many Halibut anglers in Alaska will also include a skirting that fish will be drawn to even if the bait has come off the hook. Your hook should be tied to a 150 to 200 pound test leader and connected with a minimum of 100 pound test line. There are several types of live baits used for Halibut fishing, including whole salmon heads. When selecting bait, remember bigger bait equals bigger fish.
Once you’re ready to actually drop your bait in the water, don’t let it race to the bottom. Let your line out slowly and stop every 50 feet or so to minimize tangling.
Besides letting line out slowly, you will want to reel your bait up slightly if it hits the bottom of the ocean floor. If you leave your bait on the bottom, crabs and other sea creatures on the floor will eat it.
It’s likely you’ll be waiting for a bit, so put your rod in a holder and sit back. Every once in a while, you should move your bait up and down a little to create more scent. And to maintain this scent, you should replace your bait every 45 mins to 1 hour.
While you’re bait is deployed, keep your line tight so you can feel any bites. If a Halibut bites your rig though, it will feel more like a snag rather than a ferocious bite.
If you feel a Halibut biting your rig, resist the temptation to jerk the rod. Instead, allow the fish to fully consume the bait then gently pull to set the hook.
If you’ve placed your rod in a holder, you will start noticing a twitch. Do NOT jump up and jerk the rod to set the hook. As the fish swallows your bait, increasing tension on the drag will help set your hook. Once your poll is pretty bent, only then do you start pulling the Halibut to the surface.
Unlike other fish in the ocean, you simply pull Halibut to the surface instead of fighting and wearing them down.
Heavier Halibut are known as “barn doors,” and it’s easy to understand why if you ever snag one and try pulling it to the surface. The Halibut’s flat body and large size make dragging them to the surface quite the workout.
One other big mistake that’s pretty common is the sharpness of your hooks. If they’re dull, the hook will not be able to penetrate the Halibut’s tough mouth. Using sharp hooks or taking a file to your existing ones will help ensure you can set the hook and pull the fish to the surface.
Booking a trip with an Alaska Halibut charter helps you get hands-on experience without a large investment in equipment
This article is only meant to provide a brief summary of the techniques veteran anglers use to catch Halibut. The biggest things to remember is to build a good scent trail, stay in one spot and be patient.
Relax, it’s okay if you don’t understand everything we describe here. A good Halibut charter will be able to coach you on techniques you can employ to maximize your catch.
Oasis Alaska Charters in Ketchikan provide guided Halibut fishing excursions to both small- and large-groups. Click here to learn more about Halibut fishing in Alaska, and if you’re ready to schedule a trip or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Oasis Alaska Charters today.