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Thread: Scent trail for Halibut question

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    Default Scent trail for Halibut question

    My question is this. From how far will a good scent trail pull in halibut? The reason i ask is we always try and leave a lot of room between us and any other boat that may be around. Just wondering how far a scent trail will pull in halibut. I know there is no for sure reply but what is your guess? There was a boat that anchored a good half mile down from another boat and the guy got on the radio and started chewing them out. A half mile is a long ways away if you clock it in your car. Could he have messed up the scent trail of the other boat?

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    they come in a really long ways. Miles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kgpcr View Post
    My question is this. From how far will a good scent trail pull in halibut? The reason i ask is we always try and leave a lot of room between us and any other boat that may be around. Just wondering how far a scent trail will pull in halibut. I know there is no for sure reply but what is your guess? There was a boat that anchored a good half mile down from another boat and the guy got on the radio and started chewing them out. A half mile is a long ways away if you clock it in your car. Could he have messed up the scent trail of the other boat?
    I would be VERY wary of any quoted distance. I would certainly ask for some sort of verification of how that person got that information. As you are probably well aware, this forum is ripe with people that have "opinions" in answer to questions, but when you ask them to show you proof of their assertion they will come up blank. It sure is easy for someone to say they "know" the answer, but where they got that information is always suspect to me if it's not backed by solid proof.

    Take for example someone saying they will come "miles". What exactly is "miles" and how can anyone confirm that? Are they down there testing the scent trail and then watching the halibut follow that magic scent trail? I've never seen any sort of scientific study done on it, but if one exists I'd be very interested in reading it.

    Also, in a place like Cook Inlet, or K-Bay, currents do very odd things down deep AND on the surface. Expecting a scent trail to extend more than a short distance without being dispersed seems like a pretty tall order to me. Try dumping your left over coffee out of your boat and watch the trail disperse in about 30 seconds. Do you REALLY think halibut could find a bait a couple of miles away from where it's sitting?
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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    KGPCR do you have John Beath's book How To Catch Trophy Halibut?
    He has a chapter that explains in detail how scent patterns in the ocean are dispersed and how this relates to Halibut.
    I haven't read it in a while and don't have the book in front of me but I do remember it was worth reading,
    I would guess a chum bag with a lot of scent would really draw them in from some distance.
    I know we have pulled up to a fishing hole and after having no bites I dropped a couple of chum bombs. 20 minutes later it was fish after fish after fish until we got tired of reeling them in.
    I don't suppose there is really anyway to calculate exact distances but I would bet it is a long ways especially if you have a really oily chumbag and are anchored up where they can hone in on it.
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    From how far will a good scent trail pull in halibut? like you said - "there is no for sure reply" I would say that's about as accurate as you can get.


    However- what 270ti said "they come in a really long ways" ...is right on as well. They will come in from a long ways. Hundreds of yards is certainly within reason. I would suggest it depends on the bottom topography, if halibut are already there, and if they hang out in the vicinity with regularity.


    The missing factor in your post about scent trail is TIME. How long the scent trail is down there, plus some other factors like: the current flow, what lies down the current of your scent trail - structure, depth, another likely halibut hangout, etc that may or may not have hungry halibut willing to come investigate.


    As far as how close to anchor up near other boats.....well that depends, too. Different strokes for different folks.
    Is there a boat already on the hump you want to fish when you arrive? Pick another spot. Use some common sense and courtesy. If someone comes to fish near your boat....well things could go several ways...but you control how they go with your decisions. Stay and fish, share the ocean or reel up leave. A half mile sure is plenty of room IMO to share the ocean. You certainly won’t be tangling lines with each other. Nor catching each other’s fish.


    We had an experience a couple years back where the captain needed to fuel up to take us out on the outside of POW island. We get to the petrol dock and they tell us a forklift operator hit the light pole with the transformer and the power was down for a couple more hours. DANG it! daylight and fishing time was burning. He then told us we could try a couple spots not far from the dock while we waited on the repairs. We say okay. He says no guarantees but there’s not much we can do. So we motor over and get about a mile away from the first spot and see a boat on the hump we want to fish. We stop and drift a few minutes and the guy pulls away and moves a mile or so to the next hump. We pull in right over the hump for a drift when the captain says “ drop ‘em!” we do and are rewarded with a 40 and a 54 # right off the bat. Another couple of drifts and we get a couple of 20s and 30s. The other boat leaves the other spot and we pull in over that hump. BAM! BAM! BAM! a triple header hookup! The captain says leave the fish in the water and let me see which ones we’re keeping and which go back. We limited out with nice fish which surprised both us and the captain considering we were within sight of town and I would lay odds it was due to the previous angler’s scent trail...if not from a chum bag then just from bait scent and angling action.


    The story behind the story is the previous boat put down the scent trail with his angling efforts. Maybe less than an hour on those spots. We got lucky by showing up after he pulled out. There was no pressure for him to leave and he may have caught fish, too. We just lucked up to drop baits where the scent trail had started bringing them in.
    How far did they come? No idea. Were they already there? maybe close enough to show up about the time we dropped bait.


    Back to your post...Could he have messed up the scent trail of the other boat? I doubt it personally but I wasn’t there with all the factors.


    I would also suggest that there is some accuracy to both what Dave is saying about scent dispersal over distance and about what 270ti is saying in “miles”. Halibut swim a whole lotta miles and the streams and creeks that they will “park” in front of in late summer and early fall could be miles from their normal feeding places.....so that stream full of washing out salmon is truly pumping a scent trail that attracts halibut from miles away.

    this and a couple of bucks will get you a coffee somehwere but no guarantee on the halibut.

    PS-no, not an expert here, neither do I live in AK. I do however fish there annually. Here's a 60# from last June's trip.
    60hali.jpg

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    Member SkinnyRaven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kgpcr View Post
    There was a boat that anchored a good half mile down from another boat and the guy got on the radio and started chewing them out.
    If he had to hail him on the radio I suspect he was plenty far away. I have run into similar situations and opted to move on.

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    kgpcr,
    Good on you for wanting to leave plenty of room between boats. It is a big ocean and there is plenty of room for everyone. We are out there to have fun and catch fish.

    As for the question and my experiences out of Seward. I firmly believe that you can call fish in from at least 1/2 mile. Maybe even more.....??? In the charter fleet we generally give each other 1/2 mile (depending on currents) and even try to hail them to make sure we won't be corking them. The distance can be easily judged using radar.

    Location is as important as distance because you will be corking somebody 1/2 mile down current. Sometimes it even works in your favor when someone drops anchor up current from you.
    Best of luck out there.

  8. #8

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    I anchor on almost a daily basis, and handle quite a few big halibut a season. I've released as many as 5 over 100# in a 2 hour period. Faster the current, the better the halibut fishing. Had a screamer on today that was huge, but it got off.. After a 1.5 hour soak. I know halibut, soak times, travel distances, etc.. I've been shut off by my partner boat anchoring down current of me more than a mile away. And I have more than a few "lucky" days to back it up.. (hint) BTW, they need to be over 68" to keep... and we find those too.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Muttley Crew Fishing View Post
    Do you REALLY think halibut could find a bait a couple of miles away from where it's sitting?
    Yes. You REALLY need to realize there is a whole bunch you don't know.

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    If a salmon can pick up its home water scent from 100's of miles away I don't think it is beyond reason to say a halibut can be called in from a mile or more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AaronP View Post
    If a salmon can pick up its home water scent from 100's of miles away I don't think it is beyond reason to say a halibut can be called in from a mile or more.
    You are absolutely sure of this? And how do they find that scent in the first place? And PLEASE don't take this as being argumentative as some of our more esteemed forum members seem to do. I am honestly just curious where you get such information and how you can state it so unequivocally. Or are you just going on what it is you THINK it is they are doing. I know salmon return to their native body of water to spawn, but I've never heard that a salmon can "pick up its home water scent from 100's of miles away" before.

    It's also not much of a reason to believe halibut will pick up the scent of a chum bucket "miles" away. Halibut are not salmon. Even if salmon can pick up their "home water scent" 100's of miles away, what does that have to do with halibut. Do ALL fish have the same sensory abilities that salmon have? Just think about this for a minute. There is a $#!& ton of scent down on the ocean floor from crabs, needlefish, dead fish and other organisms, and a $#!& ton of other things down there. Why is it that some people seem to think that what they have in their chum bucket is going to draw halibut in from "miles" away? And how do you go about proving that they came from "miles" away? Yeah, you can make assumptions from the success (or lack thereof) in catching halibut, but assumptions are not quite the same thing as a proven point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muttley Crew Fishing View Post
    Do ALL fish have the same sensory abilities that salmon have? Just think about this for a minute. There is a $#!& ton of scent down on the ocean floor from crabs, needlefish, dead fish and other organisms, and a $#!& ton of other things down there. Why is it that some people seem to think that what they have in their chum bucket is going to draw halibut in from "miles" away?
    Well, chum is usually chopped up smelly baitfish or oily salmon parts or some other odorous attractant. Halibut feed on dead fish (at least partially), so it would be understandably advantageous for them to be able to smell and locate dead fish. A halibut that can't find food is a dead halibut, a halibut that can makes babies. See "Darwin's theory of natural selection".

    This isn't to say that I know for certain that halibut can do this, but it would certainly make sense.

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    Charterboat Operator kodiakcombo's Avatar
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    At least in these waters I know if you use the same drift over and over it will produce, verses doing a drift and then changing a drift. I do a minimum of 2 drifts in a spot depending on the area. I've learned that once you got scent in the water keep working it. When I first started doing charters we would anchor and wait and wait all day sometimes, we would eventually have a flury of bites. It sucks when someone works your trail, got to pull anchor and start working your trail if someone moves in on it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak char View Post
    Well, chum is usually chopped up smelly baitfish or oily salmon parts or some other odorous attractant. Halibut feed on dead fish (at least partially), so it would be understandably advantageous for them to be able to smell and locate dead fish. A halibut that can't find food is a dead halibut, a halibut that can makes babies. See "Darwin's theory of natural selection".

    This isn't to say that I know for certain that halibut can do this, but it would certainly make sense.
    Oh, I fully realize what you are saying and you aren't telling me anything I don't know already.

    AaronP said that if salmon can "smell" their home waters for hundreds of miles then halibut must be able to smell a chum bucket for "miles". Yes, I realize halibut can smell, but just because a salmon MIGHT be able to "smell" their home water hundreds of miles away has nothing to do with what halibut can smell and how far away from the source of smell they can smell it. That's like comparing apples and oranges. But what you're saying doesn't come close to answering my question.

    Maybe I need to clarify my question. First of all, there is a LOT of stuff down on the ocean floor that halibut love to eat. What makes people think a halibut is going to come from "miles" away to seek out the scent of a chum bucket when in those "miles" of swimming it is probably passing stuff it would be just as happy eating? Do people think the bottom of the ocean is totally devoid of life, so their chum bucket is just a "beacon of life" for halibut and it's the only thing they're going to key in on from "miles" away. Personally I don't think so and until someone shows me the evidence supporting such a claim, and not just an "opinion" that they MUST come for miles because they catch big fish that way (that doesn't prove a thing) I'd really have to say I don't see much evidence to support such a claim.

    I open up the stomachs of a large percentage of the halibut I catch each day and I've probably done that on well over a couple of hundred halibut in the last couple of months. Most of them have stomachs just crammed with either needlefish, crabs, various other fish and even small halibut and flounder. Do people really think a chum bucket full of herring is just that much more delectable to a halibut than the tons of other food items they will pass in those "miles" they are traveling?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muttley Crew Fishing View Post
    First of all, there is a LOT of stuff down on the ocean floor that halibut love to eat. What makes people think a halibut is going to come from "miles" away to seek out the scent of a chum bucket when in those "miles" of swimming it is probably passing stuff it would be just as happy eating? Do people think the bottom of the ocean is totally devoid of life, so their chum bucket is just a "beacon of life" for halibut and it's the only thing they're going to key in on from "miles" away.
    If there's as much dead fish and forage as you seem to think there is, why will crabs come from hundreds of yards around to a pot baited with nothing but a few herring? It seems to me that such numbers of crabs wouldn't congregate on such a small amount of bait if dead fish were littered about the seafloor.

    Sure there's some, but I don't think there's as much as you seem to think. I sort of doubt that they'll travel miles for one chum bag, but hundreds of yards I could easily see.

    Also take into account that chum is ground or cut up, so it likely releases more scent than just a dead herring laying on the seafloor. That might give the "illusion" of a school of baitfish or something similar.


    Do you use a chum bag?

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    Only a novice (and somebody who has never done it) would ever discount chumming for halibut at anchor. Halibut are extremely strong swimmers, and to think they don't travel good distances to eat is false thinking. They can cover a few miles in no time at all, and willingly do so to eat salmon guts, salmon heads/bellies, herring, etc. Halibut have an amazing sense of smell, and can home in on a food source. Survival depends on it. Every experienced fisherman knows the importance of keeping fresh bait down to keep a strong chum line, to keep the halibut coming.

    When I'm examining a chart to look for a new halibut spot, I'm looking for an area with good habitat for miles. I could care less about where exactly I stick my anchor, except I'd like to get it back at the end of the day, so a smooth bottom is preferred. I'm more concerned about what's down current. I look at tide direction (flowing in or out), and the size of the tide, and how much time I have in that particular tide before it changes. I usually need 2-3 hours remaining in a tide, but prefer to anchor at the beginning of the tide. But, when I start halibut fishing is determined by when I secure limits of salmon. Nothing worse than getting on anchor and having the tide change in 45 minutes and having to start chumming a new direction. The bigger the tide, the more area I'm going to pull halibut in from. I've had 150lb halibut bite in less than 10 minutes with gear down, and I've gone as long as 90 minutes until the first halibut showed up. But once they show up, it's bite after bite until limits are secured.

    Knowing the basics of how halibut feed and tidal movements give experienced fisherman the ability to have "big" days. It allows you to secure limits of quality halibut, after catching 36 cohos and 6 kings for the boat in the morning. (six anglers) And, everybody is home for dinner.

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    I had one come from Homer AK to my bait down here in Oregon, so I'm pretty sure they will follow a scent trail along way. LOL, no seriously, I caught a small halibut that was tagged for the Homer halibut derby off the Oregon coast. What was strange is that it had been tagged about 5 years prior to me catching it and the thing was still small. I released it.

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    "When I'm examining a chart to look for a new halibut spot, I'm looking for an area with good habitat for miles. I could care less about where exactly I stick my anchor, except I'd like to get it back at the end of the day, so a smooth bottom is preferred. I'm more concerned about what's down current. I look at tide direction (flowing in or out), and the size of the tide, and how much time I have in that particular tide before it changes. I usually need 2-3 hours remaining in a tide, but prefer to anchor at the beginning of the tide. But, when I start halibut fishing is determined by when I secure limits of salmon. Nothing worse than getting on anchor and having the tide change in 45 minutes and having to start chumming a new direction. The bigger the tide, the more area I'm going to pull halibut in from. I've had 150lb halibut bite in less than 10 minutes with gear down, and I've gone as long as 90 minutes until the first halibut showed up. But once they show up, it's bite after bite until limits are secured."

    270ti thanks for sharing your personal philosophy and strategy. I will try to remember that on my self guided trip next week.


    "I would be VERY wary of any quoted distance. I would certainly ask for some sort of verification of how that person got that information. As you are probably well aware, this forum is ripe with people that have "opinions" in answer to questions, but when you ask them to show you proof of their assertion they will come up blank. It sure is easy for someone to say they "know" the answer, but where they got that information is always suspect to me if it's not backed by solid proof.

    Take for example someone saying they will come "miles". What exactly is "miles" and how can anyone confirm that? Are they down there testing the scent trail and then watching the halibut follow that magic scent trail? I've never seen any sort of scientific study done on it, but if one exists I'd be very interested in reading it."

    Muttley, how dare you confuse fishing with science. If you insist on science based on facts, you would put most of sport fishing industry, especially tackle industry out of business. We also would have nothing to discuss on these forums.

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    I hate to break up the pissin match but I have a question! I have always anchored in cook inlet for halibut. What is the set-up and process for drifting?

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    Quote Originally Posted by torpedo View Post
    "When I'm examining a chart to look for a new halibut spot, I'm looking for an area with good habitat for miles. I could care less about where exactly I stick my anchor, except I'd like to get it back at the end of the day, so a smooth bottom is preferred. I'm more concerned about what's down current. I look at tide direction (flowing in or out), and the size of the tide, and how much time I have in that particular tide before it changes. I usually need 2-3 hours remaining in a tide, but prefer to anchor at the beginning of the tide. But, when I start halibut fishing is determined by when I secure limits of salmon. Nothing worse than getting on anchor and having the tide change in 45 minutes and having to start chumming a new direction. The bigger the tide, the more area I'm going to pull halibut in from. I've had 150lb halibut bite in less than 10 minutes with gear down, and I've gone as long as 90 minutes until the first halibut showed up. But once they show up, it's bite after bite until limits are secured."

    270ti thanks for sharing your personal philosophy and strategy. I will try to remember that on my self guided trip next week.


    "I would be VERY wary of any quoted distance. I would certainly ask for some sort of verification of how that person got that information. As you are probably well aware, this forum is ripe with people that have "opinions" in answer to questions, but when you ask them to show you proof of their assertion they will come up blank. It sure is easy for someone to say they "know" the answer, but where they got that information is always suspect to me if it's not backed by solid proof.

    Take for example someone saying they will come "miles". What exactly is "miles" and how can anyone confirm that? Are they down there testing the scent trail and then watching the halibut follow that magic scent trail? I've never seen any sort of scientific study done on it, but if one exists I'd be very interested in reading it."

    Muttley, how dare you confuse fishing with science. If you insist on science based on facts, you would put most of sport fishing industry, especially tackle industry out of business. We also would have nothing to discuss on these forums.
    LOL! "How dare" I confuse science and fishing!? That's a good one. I wasn't aware that fishing was based on fantasy and opinions. Maybe in your tiny little world. If we didn't have science we wouldn't have fishing. Pretty simple.
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