One of the most sought-after fish by anglers coming to Alaska is the North Pacific Halibut, known as “The Chicken of the Sea.” They can be found all over Alaska’s extensive coastline. They are a voracious predator eating anything that moves near them and, because of their size, have few predators; Man, Sharks, and Killer Whales. They can grow to enormous sizes, and Halibut is one of the tastiest fish in the sea, with a sweet and mild flavor and a snow-white white color. It is a prize fish in many of the finest restaurants throughout the country and the world.
Large Female Halibut are known as “Barn Doors,” “Hogs,” or “Soakers” and can be of massive size. Classified as any Halibut over five ft. and weighing 100 pounds. The largest are over eight ft. in length and over 500 lbs in weight
Male Halibut are called “Chickens.” They rarely get to be over three ft. in size and rarely over 50 pounds.
Halibut, especially over 80 pounds, can be very dangerous to bring into the boat. As a result, many captains and charters dispatch them before bringing the fish onboard. These Halibut are known as “Shooters.”
But while there are instances of Barn Doors being caught, the average Halibut caught are males with an average size of 20-30 pounds when reeled in.
How to Catch Halibut in Alaska
For fishing, you first need to find spots (Halibut Holes) where the fish will be. You should look for areas where a drop-off occurs, underwater bums, and rocky bottoms. Flat areas will just be a waste of time so look for sloping spots that ultimately lead to down-hill ledges and shelves. These are spots with baitfish where Halibut lie in wait to gulp down anything that moves near them.
There are two main techniques implemented by charter fishing captains all over Alaska. You can either anchor to the bottom or slowly drift over areas where the fish are. Both methods have their pluses and minuses.
Halibut in shallow waters sight fish for food, but in deeper waters, they use scent to find prey. Therefore when fishing in deeper water, you need to add some scents to your bait or use live bait. You can use live bait and lures, and both can entice a Chicken or Barndoor to bite. To get things going, many captains will chum the water with salmon parts and other items like herring, fish-flavored dog and cat food, oils, and other things that will get the fish to come to you.
You can tie the bag to your anchor or downrigger. The chum bag puts a scent in the water that attracts fish. If you plan on using chum, be sure that it’s fresh. Otherwise, chumming will have the opposite effect.
Lures that look like Herring, Sardines, and Anchovies are perfect for fishing. Letting them move through the water attracts the fish while jerking moves usually does the opposite. When using artificial lures, make sure you use scents. You do not want to use flashy lures because the movements will spook them more than attract them. That is unless you are fishing in the shallows where movement and sight are needed.