Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) range from California to Alaska’s Bering Sea. According to the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game over 65% of the sport fishing effort and harvest occurs in Southeast Alaska, Kachemak Bay (Homer), Kodiak Island, and the Deep Creek area in lower Cook Inlet. The Halibut fishing around Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska is phenomenal. Large tides, mass bait fish and huge schools of migrating salmon and cod provide an abundance of food for the giant flat fish to feed on.
The inside passages and Islands around Ketchikan offer calm waters in which to target halibut. These protected waters increase opportunity and make fishing much more enjoyable on windy days. While halibut fishing, it is not uncommon to also catch rock fish, arrow tooth flounder, pacific cod, ling cod, mud sharks and other various species.
GUIDED HALIBUT FISHING is the best way to hook into one of these heart pounding, arm wrenching behemoths. Our guided trips put you on the water for a full 8-10 hour day and take place within a 40 mile radius from the lodge with most of the fishing done within an hours ride. Because of the many islands and passages around Ketchikan we can run any direction to find fish and stay out of foul weather. Our guided trips generally leave the dock by 7am but earlier departures can be scheduled.
Most of our halibut fishing is done from anchor at depths ranging from 350′ to 150′. Slack water, small tides and good weather also provide opportunities to drift fish. We catch our halibut using several different techniques including bait fishing with circle hooks, jig fishing and mooching. We rarely use more than 32 oz of weight to stay on bottom.
SELF GUIDED HALIBUT FISHING can be done within a half hours ride from the lodge in our 21-23′ aluminum boats. The GPS plotter, fish finder and nautical charts included with the boat will assist you well in your search for halibut and dock hands will suggest places for you to safely fish based on weather, tides and recent catch rates. Our self guided fishing trips include halibut rods, gaff hook, fish club, large shark hook and halibut harpoon to help wrestle the big ones aboard.
In the summer, Southeast Alaska halibut hang out in several different sea bed types but the one thing they’ll all have in common is food. Halibut eat crab, shrimp, cod, herring, squid, octopus, salmon — they are truly the pigs of the sea. Halibut will travel the inside waters through channels, up canals and into shallow bays searching for food.
Halibut seem to prefer sandy or gravely bottoms but you will also find them around pinnacles, rock piles, mud bottoms and shorelines among schools of herring and salmon. Halibut are somewhat of a chameleon as the dark side of their body will take on the colors of the bottom they frequent giving them camouflage to surprise their prey. An olive green, brown and tan spotted pattern will most likely mean a gravely bottom while a dark brown shaded fish is probably hanging out in the mud.
The white underside of a halibut helps to hide young fish from predators looking upwards as it blends with the light shining through the water. A red rash on the white underside means the halibut has been on the move and is migrating
THE LIFECYCLE OF A HALIBUT
Halibut spawn annually between November and March in deep water (600 to 1800 ft) near the edge of the continental shelf from British Columbia to the Bering Sea. The free floating eggs hatch after two to three weeks and as the larvae develop they gradually float upwards and drift in a northwest direction with the ocean currents. The larvae float for up to six months and drift 100’s of miles. During this free floating stage a major anatomical change takes place as the left eye migrates to the right side and they become a flat swimming fish.
After months of drifting the infant halibut are deposited in shallow coastal waters along the western Gulf of Alaska from Kodiak to the Bering Sea. These waters are rich with nutrients and the halibut will spend from 3 to 7 years feeding in these “nurseries” before beginning to migrate back in a clockwise or southeast direction compensating for the northwest larvae drift. Although most of the juvenile halibut which will spend the rest of their lives in Southeast Alaska complete this migration by the time they are 8 years old, “adult” halibut ranging 8 to 18 years continue to migrate from the western to the eastern Gulf of Alaska at the rate of about 6% per year. Halibut are highly migratory and will travel for 100’s of miles. According to IPHC reports, halibut tagged in the Bering Sea have been caught 2,000 miles away off the coast of Oregon.
Most female halibut are sexually mature at about 10-12 years and males mature at about seven or eight years of age. Once mature, halibut migrate seasonally between the offshore, deep water spawning beds and near shore summer feeding grounds. The halibut will move into shallow waters in the summer feeding on schools of cod, herring, salmon and anything else they can fit in their mouth. The summer migration and subsequent feeding frenzy provides an excellent opportunity for sportsmen to hook up with these prized fish.
Around September or October, halibut will begin their migration back out to deep water to spawn. Most spawning activity occurs between December and February.
Halibut can live to be very old reaching ages of 50 years, however few live past 30. Males are much smaller than the females and rarely grow over 100 lbs. Halibut are the largest of all flatfish and the official Alaska sport caught record is 459 lbs caught near Dutch Harbor in 1996. According to ADF&G reports, the largest halibut officially recorded In Alaska was 495 lbs taken near Petersburg. There are old pictures of halibut however, that are said to be over 900 lbs.