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Thread: Cook Inlet Butts...what are they eating?

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    Default Cook Inlet Butts...what are they eating?

    So the hooligan and herring runs should be in full swing in the inlet. I'd think the sandlances should be available.

    The small chickens I have been catching in the Deep Creek to Anchor Point area all have crabs in them and just about nothing else.

    You would think with the salmon smolts and everything else in the water, they would be eating it. Almost makes me wonder if herring is the most effective bait. I've yet to see one in a halibut stomach,

    The kings have sandlances that I have seen and new reports indicate hooligan. Even the Irish Lords puke up baitfish. You'd think if they can catch them, the halibut certainly could. Makes you wonder if the heavy pressure on them causes them to drop herring off their preferred feeding list through decades of harvesting them mainly with herring though I know the commercial guys use a lot of other baits.

    So what do you find in the stomachs of the halibut you catch in Cook Inlet. I fish from a kayak so I was wondering if it was any different for those fishing offshore further or I guess even compare notes closer in.

    Stomach content of a halibut I caught this Monday off Whiskey Gulch. This one actually had one sand lance in it. The shrimp was black and very hard shelled. The crabs look like small hair crabs. I know there is a bias against harder foods remaining longer, but I am amazed at the lack of "fish" in the stomachs.
    IMAGE_B026ACE2-BB8E-440B-85DD-C8DE9ABFD632.JPG


    Stomach content from my king from two weekends ago.
    IMAGE_11F9C49B-B5A8-4EBA-B8B1-8ED203C9261B.JPG

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    Member c6 batmobile's Avatar
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    I find those crabs in almost every butt I catch. I would assume they prefer to eat fish but eat the crabs because they are easy. Herring is so oily and smelly, it seems to be working and easy to find so Ill keep using it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by c6 batmobile View Post
    I find those crabs in almost every butt I catch. I would assume they prefer to eat fish but eat the crabs because they are easy. Herring is so oily and smelly, it seems to be working and easy to find so Ill keep using it.
    Exactly why I continue to use herring. The drawing power has to be greater. But if I was fishing just about anything else, I'd go looking or crab as bait. I just don't ever recall such a dominance of crab in halibut stomachs and was curious if everyone is having the same issue or because I'm fishing shallower now.


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    Sponsor potbuilder's Avatar
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    are the crabs hard of soft ?? back east the striped bass liked crabs when they were soft after a shed. I think the butts will eat whatever is easier to catch and salmon smolt may be to small and to fast, not enough calories for the effort to catch them.

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    Supporting Member Old John's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by potbuilder View Post
    are the crabs hard of soft ?? back east the striped bass liked crabs when they were soft after a shed. I think the butts will eat whatever is easier to catch and salmon smolt may be to small and to fast, not enough calories for the effort to catch them.
    Back in the Day as a Charter Capt, it wasn't unique to hold a butt up by it's tail and watch it spew out a whole bunch of "Necks" on the deck.

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    Member rimfirematt's Avatar
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    What's a neck?

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    Member c6 batmobile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by potbuilder View Post
    are the crabs hard of soft ?? back east the striped bass liked crabs when they were soft after a shed. I think the butts will eat whatever is easier to catch and salmon smolt may be to small and to fast, not enough calories for the effort to catch them.
    The ones I have been finding are hard. I think it just an easy meal. They swim on the bottom and just suck em up as they go by.
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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    I usually fish the midddle out in the fingers when targeting butt out of Homer.
    Sometimes they have crab in them out there as well. My favorite spot has them spitting up Needlefish quite often.

    By "necks" I assume you mean clam necks?
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    Member winibezold's Avatar
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    well, not cook inlet but the butt i got off fox island in seward on friday had 3 whole 8" pollack and lots of partially digested bait fish in it. i think the largest halibut i have seen caught was off a 12" pollack tail and salmon head. and on another note the p-cod i kept had 5 whole crabs in its stomach and nothing else

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    Quote Originally Posted by potbuilder View Post
    are the crabs hard of soft ?? back east the striped bass liked crabs when they were soft after a shed. I think the butts will eat whatever is easier to catch and salmon smolt may be to small and to fast, not enough calories for the effort to catch them.
    I am pretty sure they are small korean hair crabs.

    7475098966_595a05fa76_z.jpg

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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    We caught a 48" butt in PWS last weekend that had a whole black rockfish in its gullet. About 14 inches long at that.

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    Very interesting observations. I think the experience in Seward and PWS of fish being found is what I used to see in Cook Inlet halibut thiugh 14 inch rockfish is impressive.

    But there should be tons of "fish" swimming around the inlet right now but very very few show up in the stomachs of halibut ive caught the past three years.

    Kings have baitfish, mainly sandlances and hooligan. Even the Irish lords are puking up fish. Just seems odd the halibut aren't stuffed with them.


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    Member ArmyFishboy's Avatar
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    The 2 i caught this year from shore where both full on clams. But they bit herring.
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    Clams? Or auto corrected crabs?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kardinal_84 View Post
    I am pretty sure they are small korean hair crabs.

    7475098966_595a05fa76_z.jpg
    Are they suppose to be here?

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    Member bkbaker's Avatar
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    As a boy drift netting in Cook Inlet we used to try to catch halibut whenever the fishing periods, and the weather allowed. My family was anchored in Snug Harbor eating dinner the night before an opening. We were eating corn on the cob and ribs. We had a couple poles out and caught a couple 30# butts. As I went to clean them I noticed that their bellies were really full and checked what they had been feeding on. If you hadn't guessed what I found.....


    Each fish had 3-4 rib bones from our dinner in its stomachs. The current had to have been running at at least 3-4 knots. I haven't ever used one as bait but.....

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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by limon32 View Post
    Are they suppose to be here?
    They are here I have seen many of them up here. I believe they used to have a fishery for them in the bering sea at one time.
    When I worked at the crab cannery they still had stickers on rolls left over from that fishery that they used to put on the boxes to mark them.
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    Member joefish00000's Avatar
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    Right now the inlet is just gettig warmed up. herring and hooligan runs might be going good, but it takes awhile for the halibut to move in and capitalize on the adundant food source. by mid June the halibut will be in the inlet strong, feeding on baitfish. Right now the water isnt warm enough for the large baitfish runs to be clogging the inlet with biat. but when they do... the big halibut will come in size as well as numbers, if you know where to fish.
    so far this year, most of the fish we have caught have been crabbers. I have seen a few baitfish barfers, but not as many as in the peak of the season. big fish this time of year will be taking what they can get, large crabs, baitfish, cod, octopus.. ect.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kasilofchrisn View Post
    They are here I have seen many of them up here. I believe they used to have a fishery for them in the bering sea at one time.
    When I worked at the crab cannery they still had stickers on rolls left over from that fishery that they used to put on the boxes to mark them.
    Interesting, thanks for the info. I have caught several halibut with them but they were fairly digested and I just assumed they were babies of the more commonly known types!

  20. #20

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    The Korean hair crab often command prices similar to king crab in Japan. I never really understood why. I have had them in Japan, but never here. They are good, but a lot more work for a similar amount of meat.




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