Halibut Flat-Out Deliver Challenge and Excitement

There’s nothing second-string about halibut fishing.
Angler rigging for halibut
Capt. Bryan Gibson at Waterfall Resort in Southeast Alaska prepares a mooching rig. SWS File

You’ll always remember the first time you see a big Pacific halibut rising from the depths. You first make it out as a large, brown shape gliding through the water—something that looks more like a gargantuan throw rug than a fish.

Salmon may be the rock stars of the Alaska fishing scene, but the lure of boating a big, great-eating halibut gets the pulse of many Alaska-bound anglers racing. Halibut are available all the time up and down the coast of Alaska. These aggressive flatfish range in size from 20-pound chickens to monsters of more than 400 pounds. They are perfect ambush feeders, designed to lay on the bottom with their white belly side down and their mottled brown top side blending in with the gravel and sand. Unlike much smaller California halibut—which top out at around 50 pounds—Pacific halibut are aggressive feeders that will gladly inhale giant-size baits and lures into their massive mouths.

Anglers holding multiple halibut
Halibut fishing in Alaska. Ron Ballanti

There is no finesse when fishing halibut in Alaska. The tackle is heavy, the hooks are huge, and the bait is often a concoction of herring, salmon belies and fish guts. Why do guides use this sort of gear? Because they can—and you always need to be prepared for that 200-plus-pound barn-door-class fish to come along. Fishing is done on the anchor, and once the halibut in the area pick up the scent trail wafting across the bottom, the action gets hot and heavy.

Angler holding a large halibut
Halibut fishing in Alaska. Ron Ballanti

While halibut are available across Alaska and provide season-long action, some regions of the state have more-liberal halibut regulations, while others limit nonresident charter fishermen to one fish per day and a “slot limit” of under 50 inches or over 72 inches. In this scenario, you would be able to keep fish up to about 60 pounds or those about 200 pounds and up. However, it also means that you might need to release some 100-plus-pound fish after a few quick photos. Not the worst thing in the world. And it’s absolutely true that smaller halibut, up to 50 pounds or so, make the best table fare—beautiful fillets that cook up flaky white and delicate in flavor.

Anglers should just do their homework and be aware of the regulations and rules for the region they plan to fish. Halibut fishing is an important part of most Alaskan saltwater angling adventures.

These unusual-looking bottom dwellers provide reliable action and the chance to take home some of the most sought-after seafood on the planet. In my book, that makes them the flat-out best fish in Alaska.

Book your next charter at baityourhook.com/fishing-in-united-states.