Thump, thump, thump ... you feel their tail pushing them, you feel the sheer power of the big flat fish running. That is how Bob explained his day of halibut fishing to me.
They fished from about 60 feet to 300 feet deep. Tackle consisted of a large hook, baited with herring or octopus, and a two-pound weight on a two-foot leader.
When a fish is on line, you fight it in, in a give and take system. You reel and the fish runs … and so it goes until you tire it out and get it to the boat. When beside the boat, the captain shoots it at pointblank, through the brain. This is so you can land the fish with a gaff without it tearing up the boat or injuring people with its thrashing. Keep in mind these fish are sometimes huge, 100 to 200 pounds, or larger.
The gaff is a 6-foot long handled tool. It has a hook on the end used to grab the fish to hoist it aboard.
Everyone on the charter limited out, each catching two halibut. One halibut was over 200 pounds, one about 100 pounds. Several were in the 30 – 60 pound range. Dressed fish is about half of the fish's live weight. Bob came home with nearly 50 pounds of boneless, skinless, sweet white halibut fillets for our freezer.
I had one happy fisherman return to the RV that evening. Bob said fishing with Captain John (with Grizzly Charters, Homer, AK) really made it a fun trip. They had a full day, returning back at the dock about 5:00 p.m. Then, there was the fish cleaning, which was an interesting demonstration in itself as the captain wrestled a 200 pound barn door halibut on the dock, too large to fit on the fillet table.
Halibut fishing isn't the cheapest sport. Cost of a fishing charter is in the $300 range, plus tip and tax, but does include fish cleaning. Plus, there's the fishing license. The derby ticket, not required, of course, but available at the charter office for anyone who thinks he might catch a trophy and wants a chance to reap the prize money, is another relatively small fee.
[Editor's note: Prices change. The cost of the fishing license, the halibut charter, and the derby ticket usually increase.]