Halibut is a saltwater fish found in the cold waters of the north Pacific, especially around Alaska, where anglers the world over visit to test their skill at catching these prized gamefish. Homer, Alaska, is considered the halibut capital of the world for its tackle-busting catches of this fish. Halibut caught off the coastal waters of Homer routinely tip the scales at 100 lbs. Some are as large as a door. Successful halibut fishing requires preparation, perhaps a year in advance to book accommodations and charter boat services for the following season.
Get a Guide
To fish Pacific halibut around Alaska, you will need a boat and someone who knows where to sail it. While some halibut, typically smaller specimens, are caught in the spring by shore anglers, the big, door-sized brutes are out at sea. Experienced skippers know the waters, how to navigate the channels from the marina and where to hunt for big halibut. Your chances of catching halibut improve greatly with a guide versus going alone in unfamiliar territory.
Check Prices, Book Reservations
Charters book up quickly for peak halibut season from May through September, peaking in July and August. Some anglers make reservations and pay hefty deposits a year in advance to secure a spot on a guided charter for halibut along the southeastern side of Alaska. Before you reserve a charter or pay a deposit, find out what you are getting for your money. Anchorage is the main airport, but you may need to take a pontoon plane to reach isolated wilderness. Some charters include the cost of the plane ride. Be wary, especially, of half-day trips. You will find out too late that most of your time is spent on a boat ride getting to the fishing grounds. A full-day fishing trip usually offers better value. Rods, reels, bait and tackle are included in the charter fee. Some charters include boxed lunches and drinks, as well.
Most charter services and fishing lodges can arrange to clean and ship your frozen catch if you have a good trip. You can ship hundreds of pounds of halibut fillets packed on dry ice back home so you can enjoy your Alaskan adventure for months to come with delicious halibut dinners.
Pulling Halibut From the Sea
Halibut are bottom-dwelling fish that move to deep, colder water during the peak July-August season.
You will probably be bottom fishing with chunks of herring, mackerel or whatever is available, including pieces of crab or salmon heads. Fresh bait should go on the hooks every half hour, as the bait will lose much of its scent during that time in the cold saltwater. Remember that a mid-size halibut can tip the scales at 100 lbs., so be ready for an arm-bruising battle if you should hook into one. If you plan to keep your catch, the captain may direct the first mate or other crew member to finish the fish with a spear gun or pistol before attempting to haul it aboard your vessel.