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.
They told me to meet them at 7am at the boat, which was located at the
Narrows Inn Marina now the Rodeway Inn Edgewater, and they would show me the ‘ropes’ of Halibut fishing in Ketchikan.
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 Rodeway Inn Edgewater 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.
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.
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!
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 - and the hook - right out of their mouths! Here's more halibut fishing tips - don't do that! 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.
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!)
There are literally thousand options to choose from. Octopus-resembling rubber lures seem to dominate the market, as do the Dart, Zzinger and Stinger and
. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to what will work (or what color!) so change it up and if something is working, stick with it! Always attach some sort of bait or
liquid bait scent
to smear over the lures - remember, halibut smell their food!
It's up to you! It's truly a preference thing - do you wish to be more 'active' while you're fishing? Then do it! I like to do both -
let my circle hook work it's magic for a while and when I get bored with that - switch it up!
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Check out this great video showing a Halibut Hole up in Deep Creek, AK!