Halibut are caught using the "long-line" method. This fishing gear consists of units of leaded ground lines in lengths of 100 fathoms which are referred to as
"skates". Each skate has approximately 100 hooks spread out along its length. A "set" consist of one or more baited skates tied together and laid on the ocean bottom with anchors at each end. Each
end has a float line with a buoy reaching the surface. Hooks are baited with frozen herring or other fresh fish. A skate set could cover several miles of ocean floor. Depending on the fishing
grounds, time of year, and bait
used, a set is fished 2 to 20 hours before being pulled by a hydraulic puller.
In the past, halibut provided subsistence for several Alaska native coastal villages.
Much folklore is found concerning halibut. Each fish hook used was carved with special designs to bring good luck and large fish.
Being a flatfish, halibut have both eyes on the upper dark side. Their upper sides
tend to assume the coloration of the ocean bottom, while there underside, being as whitish as it is, tends to blend in well with the sky when viewed from below. These color adaptations allow halibut
to avoid detection by both prey and predator.
Halibut spawn in the winter with peaks for December through February. Most spawning takes place off the
continental shelf in deep waters of 200 to 300 fathoms. Females lay two to three millions eggs annually, depending
on the size of the halibut. Males and females mature 7-8 and 8-12 years, respectively.
Fertilized eggs hatch in about fifteen days. Free-floating eggs and larvae float up to 6 months and are transported up
to several hundred miles by currents of the North Pacific Seas. During the flee-floating stage, many changes take place in the young halibut, including migration of the left
eye to the right side of the fish. Eventually as the young halibut are carried into shallower waters by prevailing currents, they begin life as bottom dwellers. Click on the
gallery to the right to get a close up look at halibut.
Younger halibut, up to 10 years, are highly migratory and generally migrate in a clockwise direction east and south
throughout the Gulf of Alaska. Older halibut tend to be less migratory.
Halibut live a long time. Females grow faster and live longer than males. The oldest recorded female was 42 years old
and the oldest male was 27 years old.
Halibut are opportunistic feeders, using whatever food is available. Being strong swimmers, halibut are able to eat a
large variety of fish including cod, turbot, pollock, crab, and shrimp.
Sport fishing for halibut in Alaska is very popular. Some say it's an experience you'll never
forget. Imagine having a 250 lb. angry halibut on the other end of your line with incredible swimming powers. As you reel it in and your arms tire from its brute strength, you wonder
just how big this giant behemoth of the deep could possibly be. This could be the best fishing story of your life!
Here at Fisherman's Express, we've seen all sorts and sizes. Big ones to little ones, fat ones to skinny ones. During the summer months, sport fishermen with coolers full of halibut
meat will show up for our help in shipping it back home to stock their freezers.
We've put together a thorough list of links to halibut charter services in Alaska. They offer
everything from day trips to over-nighters for a variety of adventures.
And whatever you do, don't forget to buy yourself a ticket for an annual halibut derby.
They offer great prizes and large jackpots for the winners.