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Thread: Halibut too big to keep??? Eco system Hurt??? Why is there still H-But Derbies?

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    Member jojomoose's Avatar
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    Default Halibut too big to keep??? Eco system Hurt??? Why is there still H-But Derbies?

    My wife and I are in a discussion about breeder halibut. How those massive #200+ halibut are the breeders and should not be retained to eat, and would be more beneficial to release for breeding. I totally understand when you get a 100+ ponder on the surface and you have to shoot her in the face before you bring her on board due to her size. YES it gets everyone rocked, and gets the juices flowing, but is it good for the Alaskan environment?

    I have been in Homer, and seen the massive 50+ passenger boat go out to flat island and slaughter chickens twice a day, everyday throughout the summer. It is kind of sad, but there I was with my four people doing the same thing at the same hole they were. Bottom line is, when are they going to run out for us? When are they going to place those crappy regs we all complain about against the rec fisherman? Do they mess with the commies, or charter guy's quotas as well? We should see regs about not retaining those massive 200+ pound fish.

    If killing BIG halibut is a problem, why is there still a halibut derby? Every year there are massive 300+ pounders killed in Homer, Seward, and Valdez derbies. It is that kind of thing just motivating people to kill the big ones to post pictures on their facebooks? Or is it just another big money/political thing that drives those types of tourneys for tourism? I have seen how people are throwing on some layers and jumping in the water with these monsters to take the pictures instead of hitting it with a harpoon. it is little things like this that i think could change the fishing competitions. Now with swordfish tourneys, judges ride with the boats just so people aren't killing the fish. I am not saying that is the answer, i am just saying these derbies might be hurting the fishing, and the idea of sportsmanship in AK.

    Thoughts?

    Joe D.

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    Member captaindd's Avatar
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    Halibut start lay eggs when they are around 12 years old. Which makes them between 36 and 40 inches in lenght. Many years ago the Valdez went to a weekly drawing for the random size of the weekly winner. 100 pounds or less. The weekly winners would have a chance at winning the derby with the final derby win being drawn at the last day after the derby was over. People hated it and the department of fish and game said we where wasting or time. Last year Valdez's biggest derby fish was 290lb. The year before was 202lb. Halibut migrate from here to Russia, Japan, Canada, and California.

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    While I definitely support releasing larger fish so that others will have a chance to interact with them in the future(I offer a free trip aboard my charter to any angler who releases a halibut over 250 lbs), there is a considerable scientific consensus saying that the 150+ pound fish are in fact a very small percentage of the breeding population. While a 300 lb fish may lay 4 million eggs per year, it is nearing the end of its lifespan, and will likely only spawn a few more times. A 20 lb fish may only lay 1 million eggs per year(for now), but it has the potential to spawn many more(15+) times. If you put that into human terms, it is like asking the question, which has the greatest potential to add more humans to the population, an 18 year-old woman, or a 40 year-old woman?


    Additionally, though we are now catching many more "small" halibut, they are the same AGE fish that we've always caught. In 1997, the average 18 year old halibut weighed 80 lbs. In 2014, it weighed 40 lbs. Similar halibut growth rates were seen in the 1920s. In the 20's, an 18 year old halibut weighed about 40lbs.

    Looking at the full history of halibut data, scientists are now not sure if halibut today are "small," or if halibut in the 80's and 90's were just really BIG. Since much of the charter and sport fisheries for halibut became popular in the 80's and 90's, many halibut fishermen have an impression of what size halibut were in the "good old days" of the 80's and 90's. However, when looked at on a 100-year scale, those fish of the 80's and 90's were much larger than what had been seen at the start of the century.


    The newspaper put out a pretty interesting article on halibut reproduction a couple years ago. The story is still online at: Taking 'big mamas' doesn't hurt resource, say scientists | Peninsula Clarion mobile

    This article looks some at the differing size-at-age trends: http://www.adn.com/article/20150923/...along-flatfish


    -David Bayes

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    Member homerdave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidBayes View Post
    While I definitely support releasing larger fish so that others will have a chance to interact with them in the future(I offer a free trip aboard my charter to any angler who releases a halibut over 250 lbs), there is a considerable scientific consensus saying that the 150+ pound fish are in fact a very small percentage of the breeding population. While a 300 lb fish may lay 4 million eggs per year, it is nearing the end of its lifespan, and will likely only spawn a few more times. A 20 lb fish may only lay 1 million eggs per year(for now), but it has the potential to spawn many more(15+) times. If you put that into human terms, it is like asking the question, which has the greatest potential to add more humans to the population, an 18 year-old woman, or a 40 year-old woman?


    Additionally, though we are now catching many more "small" halibut, they are the same AGE fish that we've always caught. In 1997, the average 18 year old halibut weighed 80 lbs. In 2014, it weighed 40 lbs. Similar halibut growth rates were seen in the 1920s. In the 20's, an 18 year old halibut weighed about 40lbs.

    Looking at the full history of halibut data, scientists are now not sure if halibut today are "small," or if halibut in the 80's and 90's were just really BIG. Since much of the charter and sport fisheries for halibut became popular in the 80's and 90's, many halibut fishermen have an impression of what size halibut were in the "good old days" of the 80's and 90's. However, when looked at on a 100-year scale, those fish of the 80's and 90's were much larger than what had been seen at the start of the century.


    The newspaper put out a pretty interesting article on halibut reproduction a couple years ago. The story is still online at: Taking 'big mamas' doesn't hurt resource, say scientists | Peninsula Clarion mobile

    This article looks some at the differing size-at-age trends: http://www.adn.com/article/20150923/...along-flatfish


    -David Bayes
    Excellent post, David
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    Member AKCAPT's Avatar
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    David is correct in everything he says, especially the record year class in the 1980's that sustained the fishery.

    The fact is, many species of fish are managed by looking at something called the spawning potential ratio or SPR. This measures the potential value of a fish like halibut from the time it becomes viable to spawn until it would likely die. When looking at SPR, a smaller halibut is much more valuable to the overall well being of the resource than a very large one, that has already contributed greatly to the stock. It is very likely that halibut will be looked at and managed in this way in the future.

    Of course there is the natural inclination to "feel" that killing a 50 year old "breeder" harms the resource.
    Now that does not address the fact that something is special about a 50 year old halibut, this creature avoided predation and sickness for many years and those traits are valuable to keep in the gene pool.
    Huge halibut are higher in mercury content and are not as good to eat as smaller ones.
    Releasing one may provide opportunity for others to catch and in turn release one of these giants.

    Size at age, and other factors leading to lower abundance are really separate issues.

    Does killing a dozen big halibut in the local tournaments do any biological harm? No
    Does it bring people to town to go fishing and perpetuate fishermen hoping for the possibility of catching a barn door? yes

    Should we have 100% observer coverage on trawl fleet in the Gulf that catches a huge number of very small halibut? yes!

    Politics are not really part of this and in my opinion neither is biology.

    With that said, there is zero harm in letting the giants go and if it makes you feel good, I would say please to it.

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    Member Rob B's Avatar
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    Very interesting post. I have a different look at the big ones now. Thanks. I've kept several over 100 before, but honestly I'd rather not just because the smaller ones taste so much better. Yeah it's fun to hook into a monster, but I tend to watch them dive back down for another fisherman nowadays.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidBayes View Post
    there is a considerable scientific consensus saying that the 150+ pound fish are in fact a very small percentage of the breeding population. While a 300 lb fish may lay 4 million eggs per year, it is nearing the end of its lifespan, and will likely only spawn a few more times.

    -David Bayes
    While true David I think about the genetics of that large fish being removed from the herd.
    Those last few spawning years=12 million chances to add to the genetics of the large fish population.
    If harvested those chances are gone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DRIFTER_016 View Post
    While true David I think about the genetics of that large fish being removed from the herd.
    Those last few spawning years=12 million chances to add to the genetics of the large fish population.
    If harvested those chances are gone.
    took the words right out of my mouth.

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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DRIFTER_016 View Post
    While true David I think about the genetics of that large fish being removed from the herd.
    Those last few spawning years=12 million chances to add to the genetics of the large fish population.
    If harvested those chances are gone.
    Absolutley!
    Those big fish have the genes to become big and to survive until that age.
    I personally feel that this fact has some merit in the discussion.
    If it's so much better to take the big ones why do our regs for the commercial charter boats state they can catch one any size and one under 29"?
    Why don't we say they can catch one any size and one over 100# or 200#?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kasilofchrisn View Post
    Absolutley!
    Those big fish have the genes to become big and to survive until that age.
    I personally feel that this fact has some merit in the discussion.
    If it's so much better to take the big ones why do our regs for the commercial charter boats state they can catch one any size and one under 29"?
    Why don't we say they can catch one any size and one over 100# or 200#?
    Cause that would use up the quota of poundage allocated to the charter fleet in a hurry. The 'under' slot fish is to maximize the number of halibut that charters can harvest while minimizing the total pounds harvested.

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    I can certainly see the concern about the gene pool being influenced. I myself was very passionate about the genetic concept, until I saw the data showing that size-at-age in the 1920s was nearly identical to what we see now. Those fish in the 20's had a gene pool which was almost un-touched.

    Further, since halibut are relatively slow-growing, we are, in 2016, still only catching the 1st and 2nd generation "children" of those big halibut from the late 90's. Genetic selection can only happen as quickly as a species can reproduce, so an 18 year old "little halibut" which we catch today was the direct descendant of a mating pair of "large" halibut in the late 90's. One could propose that we had killed all the "large" halibut in the 80s and 90s, leaving only smaller ones to reproduce, but that also does not hold-up. By the time we caught a 100 pounder in the 90's, it had already had the chance to reproduce for many(6-10) years A fish does not itself have to be big(old) to pass on it's "big fish" genes, those fish start passing those genes on as soon as they lose their fish virginity.

    Looking at the big picture, and seeing which user groups take what size piece of the state-wide "halibut pie," one finds that sport fishermen take a very small piece. Andy can speak more accurately to numbers, but I think sport only takes about 20% of the state-wide catch. Since charters must also "fish" for clientele, they photograph the hell out of those larger fish, and do what they can to tell the world about each one caught. That's how they survive. Pictures and bragging rights aside, the ADFG reported yearly average size for charter caught halibut in area 3A(southcentral AK) has rarely, and maybe never(?), exceeded 20 lbs. In 2015, the average over-29" fish was 11.2 lbs.

    So, though sport fishermen do their best to high-grade their catch, the sport catch is a relatively small component(percentage) of the total catch, and sporties still can't break an area-wide average of 20 lbs.

    Looking at other sectors, longliners will, for the most part, keep any fish over 32 inches(about 17 lbs), and trawl by-catch is mostly exclusively halibut UNDER 32 inches, with a large component being under 26 inches. *imagine the resource impact of 10 million lbs of halibut trawl by catch, when each halibut caught averaged 1 pound........*

    So, when looking at a FISHERY-wide halibut take(total pounds), there is really not that much emphasis on 100# plus fish. I've always told people that theres a REASON that all the pictures they see of charter fish are of BIG fish. Humans take pictures of things which don't happen every day. If charters, or sport anglers in general, photographed each halibut that they retained, their Facebook pages and websites would be terribly boring.

    -David

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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Zeek View Post
    Cause that would use up the quota of poundage allocated to the charter fleet in a hurry. The 'under' slot fish is to maximize the number of halibut that charters can harvest while minimizing the total pounds harvested.
    Right I get that part.
    But if it is better for the resource to harvest bigger fish versus smaller why are we managing by poundage?
    Shouldn't we be managing by numbers of fish like we do salmon?
    A guy only needs one 100 pound fish versus 4 or 5- 25 pounders for the same amount of meat and supposedly taking the bigger fish is healthier for the fish population.
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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    I personally think a big part of our Alaska fish problems are due in part to those pictures and brochures.
    So many tourist Anglers see brochures and charter offices wall pictures,website pics,etc. that mostly show pictures of big fish.
    I'm sure there are quite a few who do not realize that 100+# halibut and 60+# Kenai river Kings are not the norm.
    So they insist on keeping the bigger fish when they catch them thinking it is common.
    They see pictures showing limit after limit of fish and feel compelled to get their moneys worth and keep ample limits of the biggest fish they happen to catch whether they can eat all of those fish or not.
    I can't help but believe that that is a big factor in the decline of those genetically big Kenai river King Salmon.
    Maybe not so much in regards to Halibut but it can't be helping the issue IMHO.
    "The closer I get to nature the farther I am from idiots"

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    I really like what we have going here in SE AK. I've been fishing 70+ days annually for 13 years in SE, and I have seen a halibut rebound like I never imagined. Every year it is getting better and better. I really hope they don't do anything to screw it up, like implementing a "1" any size again or dramatically raising what the longliners can catch. If anybody has been paying attention, every lodge in SE AK is running, and has been running at max capacity for several years now, and that is with our reverse slot. If we want bigger fish, we buy them through GAF.

    The amount of bigger halibut around is staggering, compared to what it was like before the charter/longliners were cut back.

    Based on what I have seen, I say to protect those 50-130lb halibut as much as possible. As mentioned, the bigger ones have already have invested greatly in reproduction, and have passed those genetics along.

    The unguided sport fleet needs to go under a punch card system. 2 a day, any size, all season long is ridiculous considering the cuts others have taken to bring the resource back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 270ti View Post
    I really like what we have going here in SE AK. I've been fishing 70+ days annually for 13 years in SE, and I have seen a halibut rebound like I never imagined. Every year it is getting better and better. I really hope they don't do anything to screw it up, like implementing a "1" any size again or dramatically raising what the longliners can catch. If anybody has been paying attention, every lodge in SE AK is running, and has been running at max capacity for several years now, and that is with our reverse slot. If we want bigger fish, we buy them through GAF.

    The amount of bigger halibut around is staggering, compared to what it was like before the charter/longliners were cut back.

    Based on what I have seen, I say to protect those 50-130lb halibut as much as possible. As mentioned, the bigger ones have already have invested greatly in reproduction, and have passed those genetics along.

    The unguided sport fleet needs to go under a punch card system. 2 a day, any size, all season long is ridiculous considering the cuts others have taken to bring the resource back.
    Agree 100%

    I came here to the Icy Strait area in 1996. There were maybe 8 charter boats that fished hard. You were darned lucky to catch the two fish a day any size that was the limit then. Now it's common to shake multiple fish that would have been keepers in the day, and there's now probably closer to 20 boats. The resource is strong.

    I have a couple of friends who have been here way longer than me with small amounts of quota share they fish locally. They've never seen it this good.

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    We have kind of a funny take on it.

    We NEVER buy halibut in the market or order it in a restaurant. Price is bad, but it's not the price that stops us. The commercial halibut are mostly too big and the meat waaaaay too course and dry for us. Personal tastes, but I can't imagine how anyone could like that stuff. I picture a whole lot of meat from big sport-caught halibut going into dumpsters a year or two after it's caught.

    Love to catch the big ones, but they all swim away after we give them a ride to the surface. A halibut under 20# is in serious danger at the side of our boat through.
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    Member Ben XCR's Avatar
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    Excellent post right here. Goes against what most people think is the reality, and is backed up by solid research. It's changed my view a bit for sure. I'm still letting the 50+ go though as I'm out for table fare only and only take a couple a year home.
    The more you talk, the more I wish I was deaf.

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    Member homerdave's Avatar
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    What folks don't understand is that the regulations are NOT established for conservation reasons. They are solely about dividing up the pie, not making bigger or better pies. Every year the pie gets smaller but the factions demand the same size pieces.


    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
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    Quote Originally Posted by homerdave View Post
    What folks don't understand is that the regulations are NOT established for conservation reasons. They are solely about dividing up the pie, not making bigger or better pies. Every year the pie gets smaller but the factions demand the same size pieces.


    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
    I am not sure if you are calling me a fool or not.

    The pie actually has been growing a bit in 2c and will probably continue to grow. Although the reverse slot might not have been intended for conservation, it sure gave those results. I hope they are taking notice. The long liners taking big cuts sure helped too. As the rebound continues to happen throughout 2c, we can hope that they keep harvests at a conservative level.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbflyer View Post
    Agree 100%

    I came here to the Icy Strait area in 1996. There were maybe 8 charter boats that fished hard. You were darned lucky to catch the two fish a day any size that was the limit then. Now it's common to shake multiple fish that would have been keepers in the day, and there's now probably closer to 20 boats. The resource is strong.

    I have a couple of friends who have been here way longer than me with small amounts of quota share they fish locally. They've never seen it this good.
    I hear similar things up and down the coast.

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