The best halibut fishing in Alaska is almost unanimously considered to be found in Homer, Alaska, a city that bills itself as "the Halibut Capital of the World." Homer is situated along the Kenai Peninsula about 220 miles south of Anchorage. If you want to catch halibut the size of a door, Homer is your destination. And if the halibut won't cooperate, Homer is almost as well known for amazing catches of the king salmon.
Plan in Advance
To catch halibut, your best bet is to book travel arrangements and a charter boat for the months of June to August. There are more than 100 charter boats docked in the Homer marinas, but they fill up fast for the season, with some captains recommending their parties book reservations up to a year in advance. Walk-on availability for halibut fishing on charter boats is rare, and you will probably go away disappointed if you wait until the last minute to book a trip.
Booking a Charter
You'll need to buy your own fishing license for halibut upon arrival in Homer. Charter boats typically supply all equipment, tackle and bait for halibut fishing; you'll need to bring warm clothing, rain gear, food and drink for a day at sea.
Most charters accommodate six to 12 anglers per boat, depending on the size of the vessel, so if you have a smaller group, go with a smaller boat.
Full-day charters will give you more actual fishing time for halibut than half-day charters, since much of a half-day trip is spent on the boat ride getting to deep water where halibut can be caught.
Fuel prices are the greatest single cost of operating a fishing charter, so make sure the price you are quoted is the final price you pay. Get your reservation in writing when you pay a deposit. Some charter operators are in the habit of tacking on fuel surcharges after the trip is booked. These can run into the hundreds of dollars, so beware.
Some visitors to Homer may want to consider travel insurance to cover them against deposit losses if they must cancel their plans. Depending on how much money you may have to pay for a charter boat, transportation and lodging reservations--all balanced against unpredictable weather--travel insurance may be an option worth considering.
Your charter captain will recommend the techniques and tackle rigging best suited for the prevailing halibut fishing conditions. Most likely, you'll be bottom fishing on a rig with a 4/0 to 10/0 hook on 30 inches of wire leader tied to 200-pound test fishing line. Above the leader, you'll use a pyramid or egg sinker weighting 1 to 3 lbs., depending on ocean conditions.
Your captain will locate a promising location using fish-finder electronics and sonar, then weight anchor to get started. The mate will help everyone bait hooks with squid or octopus strips, or chunks of herring or other baitfish.
Fresh bait works to your advantage because halibut have a remarkably keen sense of smell. However, the captain may suggest artificial lures under certain conditions. You can rig up with heavy green, blue or chartreuse jigs, and twitch them just off the bottom. Soft plastic squid and octopus are also effective on halibut that shrug off herring. Follow your captain's recommendations and you'll increase your chances of hooking into a halibut that will wear out your arms and give you the angler's thrill of a lifetime.