I have assembled the Top Halibut Fishing Tips which come from my experiences fishing with several charter boat captains over the years - just for you! I still remember the first time I went Halibut Fishing in Ketchikan. I was invited to go by a couple co-workers - two boat captains – and a fishing charter boat captain friend of theirs.
Show off your prize winners or tell us about the ones that got away!
Tell everyone about it!
They told me to meet them at 7am at the boat, which was located at the Narrows Inn Marina, and they would show me the ‘ropes’ of Halibut fishing in Ketchikan.
The marina at the Narrows Inn Restaurant & Marina
The first thing we did was eat breakfast. Haha!! Yep, it’s an important step in preparing to go Halibut fishing, apparently! More halibut fishing tips - eat breakfast!!! Developing the plan of the day, discussing places to try, & discussing the gear each person came with – all while savoring a fantastic breakfast of pancakes & eggs at the Narrows Inn Restaurant – is an important part of the planning process!
Once we were on the boat and heading out of the marina, Captain Don looked over all of the gear and began assembling the halibut hooks. Who knew there was such a science to the way the hook was assembled?! The round-shaped halibut hook, the favorite of many Halibut fishermen, is tied to the bottom of the line with a one to three foot bait leader leading to the lead ball weight (1-2lb). Be sure to read the Halibut Fishing Tips below for more information on halibut hooks.
Halibut Hook & leader getting ready to be assembled
The fishing rod we used was a sturdy, 6-7ft halibut rod, American style, one designed for Halibut Fishing – balanced, powerful, & lightweight. A sturgeon rod can work but will be a little light in the tip which can really tire you out after a full day of Halibut fishing. We also used 60lb braided Dacron test line. Strong as steel but lightweight!
We headed out toward Guard Island and when the guys decided we were in a good spot, we dropped our lines. Halibut fishing is pretty different than the fishing I have done in the past.
Guard Island in Ketchikan Alaska - gorgeous, huh?!
The bait is placed on the hook, usually herring, salmon heads and guts, octopus, cod and crab though be sure to check out my halibut fishing tips for the best bait! Then you simply toss the line over the side of the boat and open up the bail on the fishing reel to let the weight fall down to the ocean floor. Once the weight hits bottom, you close the bail, and...wait! Every little while (30 seconds or so) you pull on the weight and let it fall back down on the floor. Halibut are attracted by scent and bouncing the bait will send the scent and vibrations out in all directions indicating there is food nearby.
Halibut are bottom feeders so you must drop the hook to the ocean floor. They prefer deep waters, 200 - 300 feet deep, with piles of rocks and ledges to live on. If you study your marine charts & use a GPS, you will have no trouble locating ‘perfect’ halibut holes. Luckily for me, I was with professional charter boat captains with their GPS’ loaded with their favorite halibut holes!
So easy a kid can do it!
As I waited and bobbed my weight on the ocean floor, I was also watching the tip of the fishing rod which is usually steadily bouncing up and down with the rise & fall of the ocean, watching for the unmistakable tip dance that indicates the halibut has taken the bait.
After a few drops of the weight the tip of my fishing rod started bouncing like crazy and Captain Don yelled out FISH ON!!! Woohoo!!! Let the fun begin! Now Captain Don started yelling out instructions...More halibut fishing tips...“Wait….let him swallow the bait…now set the hook!”...“Keep the tip up”...”Reel quickly & steadily”
I let Captain Don set the hook that first time and get it started then I became the ‘Auto Reeler’ (my nickname still to this day!) There is also an art to setting the hook because if you jerk up on the line before the fish has eaten the bait, you simply pull the bait right out of their mouths! So you wait a few seconds, let them eat the bait, reel in a couple winds, then JERK up on the rod to set the hook into the hard mouth of the halibut.
Hey, that's me! Halibut Fishing in Ketchikan Alaska
I reeled as fast as I could – wow, 300 feet is a long way! – finally spotting a fish coming up to the surface! Once at the surface, Captain Don & the others gaffed the fish and brought it onboard. They bonked it on its head (a quick, solid hit behind the eyes), cut just inside the gill coverings which started the bleeding out process, and placed it in the fish locker (another ‘guy-only’ job!)
Woohoo! Halibut for dinner tonight!
The best bait is fresh herring, salmon bellies, or geoduck clams. It's best to use fresh herring as it is tougher which will stay on the hook better & longer. Another of my halibut fishing tips is that if you must use frozen herring, soak it in a salt-water brine overnight to help stiffen it up. Halibut smell their food so use fresh or freshly frozen over freezer burnt, brown bait - give 'em
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Check out this great video showing a Halibut Hole up in Deep Creek, AK!
My former husband with his 2nd 'best catch' - the first being me, LOL!!
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