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Thread: Chalky Halibut in Cook Inlet this summer

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    Default Chalky Halibut in Cook Inlet this summer

    How many chalky halibut have you come across this summer out of Cook Inlet? Half of the fish my buddy got were chalky and only had a few small crabs in thier stomach. Those two things seem to go hand in hand. Every chalky or mushy fish i have cleaned had small crabs or crab shells in thier gut. Looks like that is the only food they can get.

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    I've cleaned 2 chalky ones this season
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    Quote Originally Posted by kgpcr View Post
    How many chalky halibut have you come across this summer out of Cook Inlet? Half of the fish my buddy got were chalky and only had a few small crabs in thier stomach. Those two things seem to go hand in hand. Every chalky or mushy fish i have cleaned had small crabs or crab shells in their gut. Looks like that is the only food they can get.
    I've had a few chalky fish. I think chalky fish is more due to how they were handled and how they fought. My understanding is that lactic acid after exertions is what causes it to at least some degree.

    EVERY halibut I have caught so far has been stuffed with crabs off Whiskey Gulch On saturday what was unusual was that I caught two 30 pound fish in the same general area. One had little hair crabs, the other had little red crabs that looked almost like red rock crab. Sort of like the stone crabs down south with black tipped pincers. Both only had one species or the other.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kardinal_84 View Post
    EVERY halibut I have caught so far has been stuffed with crabs off Whiskey Gulch On saturday what was unusual was that I caught two 30 pound fish in the same general area. One had little hair crabs, the other had little red crabs that looked almost like red rock crab. Sort of like the stone crabs down south with black tipped pincers. Both only had one species or the other.
    We see that over here, but usually not until the last two weeks or so of July. Everything else is happening early, so in a way it makes sense. I marked 55.1 degree water yesterday. Wow.

    Halibut can sure be tough to catch when they're on crabs, so good job!

    As for chalky halibut and lactic acid, that's what the food scientists told me, too.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I've never pulled a chalky halibut out of the Gulf or the Sound, sounds like more an issue of something in the diet of the inlet fish than how they are handled our how they fight.

    Just talked to a co-worker and he fished Homer this weekend. The first day they fished four of their five fish were chalky and the second day they threw back several that felt soft on the edges.
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    Here's a lot of the information I have read on the causes:
    http://www.iphc.int/research/biology...y-halibut.html

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    Last summer we did not get one that i can remember and the halibut were full of small fish. the summer before we got a bunch and all had crab in their gut.

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    Sunday we boated 5 halibut: 1 was chalky and 1 was mushy. Both had sea lice.

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    This part of Rudy's link to IPHC was most interesting:The condition is reversible in live fish. Flesh which would otherwise likely be chalky does not develop the condition post-mortem if the fish are allowed a 1-2 day resting period after capture, and before killing.
    Out of the all my trips up there to fish most have been for Coho and only a few for halibut. Never saw a chalky fish until I looked at the pic on the link. All mine have been firm and translucent. All caught in SE waters. My Icy Straits trip was a halibut only week of fishing. No chalkies then by anyone at the lodge, either. Just luck most likely.

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    i am not buying the post mortem BS. how the heck are you supposed to keep a halibut alive for a few days after you catch it?? one year there are many chalky halibut and the next none. Both years the fish are treated the same way. Catch and bleed and in the cooler they go.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrownBear View Post
    We see that over here, but usually not until the last two weeks or so of July. Everything else is happening early, so in a way it makes sense. I marked 55.1 degree water yesterday. Wow.

    Halibut can sure be tough to catch when they're on crabs, so good job!

    As for chalky halibut and lactic acid, that's what the food scientists told me, too.
    Early is an understatment....Good buddy of mine was having trouble with Pinks this weekend. That usually a mid july thing.
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    Yeah, and the silvers are already showing up offshore. Earliest I usually expect to see them is around July 4, and only off the capes. I know of one caught off Kalsin Beach over the weekend. They're as small as you'd expect this time of year (5-6#), but at least a couple of weeks early and in lots more places. Are early silvers going to interfere with our pink fishing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrownBear View Post
    Yeah, and the silvers are already showing up offshore. Earliest I usually expect to see them is around July 4, and only off the capes. I know of one caught off Kalsin Beach over the weekend. They're as small as you'd expect this time of year (5-6#), but at least a couple of weeks early and in lots more places. Are early silvers going to interfere with our pink fishing?
    Ya, lots of Coho's this past weekend were caught offhsore. I pulled one siler back on Apr 4th, but normally, I get my first on July 1st.

    But to the topic at hand....I haven't really noticed a corralation between crabs and mushy buts. I haven't seen many mushy fish since 2011 and 12. One had one or 2 so far this year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kgpcr View Post
    i am not buying the post mortem BS. how the heck are you supposed to keep a halibut alive for a few days after you catch it?? one year there are many chalky halibut and the next none. Both years the fish are treated the same way. Catch and bleed and in the cooler they go.
    I call BS on this two because I filleted a halibut almost as soon as it came in the boat and the fish was chalky.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hoose35 View Post
    I call BS on this two because I filleted a halibut almost as soon as it came in the boat and the fish was chalky.
    My understanding it is lactic acid that builds up with moire exertion. That in and of itself is not a problem. But combined with other factors like water temperature and possibly feed, it literally "cooks" the flesh like when you apply lime juice to make ceviche...sort of.

    Like in the human body, lactic acid will dissipate given enough time. I have known longliners who got less than full price for halibut and one of the ways they corrected it was with a longer soak time which allowed the halibut some recovery time.

    I don;'t know how they know if a fish is chalky or not before they cut it open. But at least I know folks who believe (knowledgeable folks) that short soak times in warm water seems to correlate with more chalkiness. Why short soak times? Fish struggles, builds up lactic acid, and then gets pulled up. Longer soak times mean they have time to recover. Of course then the question would be "Sport fisherman have zero soak time, after fighting the rod, shouldn't all sport caught fish be chalky?" maybe the relatively brief struggle by sportsman versus several hours struggling on a long line makes a difference.

    There certainly doesn't seem to be a definitively proven answer. But there are strong correlations between the lactic acid content of the fish and water temperature. Keep in mind, all these studies are on commercial halibut catch. They are "on the hook" a LOT longer than a typical sport caught fish.

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    What doesn't make sense on the lactic acide argument is why you're not hearing about chalky halibut be taken out of Seward or Whittier. If anything I'd bet those fish are generally taken in slightly deeper water so one would expect them to have more lactic acid in their flesh. Also the chalky halibut in Cook Inlet have only seemingly been an issue in the past five years.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    What doesn't make sense on the lactic acide argument is why you're not hearing about chalky halibut be taken out of Seward or Whittier. If anything I'd bet those fish are generally taken in slightly deeper water so one would expect them to have more lactic acid in their flesh. Also the chalky halibut in Cook Inlet have only seemingly been an issue in the past five years.
    Nowhere near the currents in either place. Big currents can mean lots of hard work when the fish are moving from one place to another. And they do move long distances.

    Same over here. The only chalky fish I've seen were "cherry bellies," halibut with reddish undersides and even signs of wear. The old time longliners were always on the alert for cherry bellies, both as a sign of moving fish and how that affects their strategy in set, but also the likelihood of chalky fish and weighbacks at the dock.

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    i have not heard of many if any coming out of Seward just Cook Inlet. I dont think its a how long you fight them thing.

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    Have only caught a few over the last few weekends fishing Homer, but you can tell which ones they were. Not as firm and flesh is sorta like jello. Did a beer batter taste test against others, didn't seem to hold together as welln but was still edible. Saw a guy chuck a whole one into the trash bin at the fish cleaning station, guy that was taking samples didn't seem to care that he did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    What doesn't make sense on the lactic acide argument is why you're not hearing about chalky halibut be taken out of Seward or Whittier. If anything I'd bet those fish are generally taken in slightly deeper water so one would expect them to have more lactic acid in their flesh. Also the chalky halibut in Cook Inlet have only seemingly been an issue in the past five years.
    On an average, I'd say the halibut caught out of Seward and Whirttier are caught at greater depths and thusly cooler waters.. the chalky problem seems to appear later in the summer after the waters of Cook Inlet have had a chance to warm up a bit (JMO).

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