The Pacific Halibut are the largest sports fish in Alaska. They can range in length up to eight feet and weigh over 500 pounds. Halibut that are 100 pounds are called barn doors, while halibut that are under 100 pounds are called chickens. It is an amazing adventure to catch a chicken even. The record for the Alaska King salmon is 126 pounds, and A chicken is nearly that and still growing. Imagine the thrill of trying to land a 500 pound halibut. Every summer and into fall sports fishermen from around the world head to Alaska to do just that. The thrill of landing a barn door is amazing, but overall halibut are excellent fish to eat and even the chickens offer a premium of filets that you will not likely catch with other sports fish. Have at it, dig in, and hold on because halibut fishing is pure adrenaline.
Where to find Pacific Halibut
During the spawning season, the barn doors are thickest along the South Central and the Souther Easter areas of Alaska. The relatively short coastal shelf in that region makes it fairly easy to for the fish to find mates and to spawn. One the northwest side of the panhandle the long continental shelf is an excellent are to find both chickens and barn doors. Halibut are laterally compressed flat fish, and they prefer the flat bottom coastal areas where they can make the most use of their flat bodies. The fisheries along the Bristol Bay area make excellent Halibut fishing grounds, although technically you can find halibut almost everywhere along the shores of Alaska. Specific hot spots would include the waters around Kodiak Island and all along the Aleutian chain. Basically, you are looking for shallow water along the continental shelf. Halibut prefer water that is anywhere from 20 feet deep to over 1000 feet deep. They have a really small range of preferred water temperature, and as such use the ocean depth to maintain the best temperature for their health and growth.
What Do Pacific Halibut Eat
The Pacific Halibut are predator fish. They eat pretty much whatever they can catch. Their preferential food are herring, smelt, and other small schooling fish. Their coloration allows them to blend into the ocean floor where they wait for prey. They will eat squid, crabs, rockfish, and octopus if they can catch them. Fishing for Halibut is almost always a chartered adventure. Your guide will have their ways of fishing for halibut. Those may be good tricks or not. A lot of fishermen will point you towards herring as bait. Some will argue that filets of herring are better then herring steaks or even chunks of herring. Herring are one of the Pacific Halibut's favorite food, but it is not the only food they will eat. If you listen quietly along the docks, you will find that the secret to fishing for halibut is not herring, but the discarded remains of salmon. That's right; the heads, guts, and whatever else fishermen throw out make some of the best halibut bait around.
Fishing for Barn Doors and Chickens
Herring and smelt are small silver fish that swim in schools. Halibut use their eyes, nose and even the vibrations in the water to hunt for food. Flashers, bright spoons, lures and bait are four ways to attract halibut. Using a bait, or even chum is one method of fishing that works well too. The captain will likely find a good spot and then drop anchor. Using chum helps bring in the halibut from the nearby water. This is an excellent technique when using bait. If you are trolling, then break out the flashers and hold in tight. Half of the battle with halibut is surviving the 300 pound strike.
Considerations for Halibut Fishing in Alaska
Most visitors use a charter service or a guide. Depending on which part of Alaska you are going to be visiting and what time of year are you are coming will make a big difference in the type of charter you choose. Give some consideration to the methods of fishing that are discussed within the article and then use that information as you choose your charter of guide. If you are staying at one of the lodges that also offers guide fishing be sure to ask which methods of halibut fishing, they prefer.