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Thread: Landing the big halibut...

  1. #1
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    Default Landing the big halibut...

    Another thread got me thinking....I've never fished the ocean, let alone caught anything as big as some halibut I've seen in pictures. Maybe we won't hook a biggun, but if we do getting them landed and either released or kept is another story. I'll be fishing out of a relatively small boat, 20' or so from what I remember, so I don't have a large area to just lay them in to keep them out of the way.

    Here's what I've heard/read...
    - take a gun and shoot the ones you want to keep.
    - use a rope and stick as a stringer and just rope them off the boat after gaffing them (seems like a way to attract predators to the boat to eat your catch though!).
    - gaff them through the head (ok I just read this in the other halibut thread haha) and toss them in the boat?
    - don't bring them into the boat alive unless you want a broken leg.

    I'm looking for any tips on what to do with a large halibut once she's at the boat. What to do if we want to keep it, bleed it out, etc? What if we want to release it? Is there anything we should be concerned with when releasing these fish, bladders or anything? Is there an easy hook removal method without gaffing?

    Thanks!

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    If you want to release it don't bring it in the boat, don't gaff it. Just grab the leader and remove the hook and say good bye. Personally I won't keep any halibut over 60#'s as I think the smaller fish taste better, they are also easier to man handle and this leaves the bigger guys for someone else to enjoy catching.

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    Member AK_Kid's Avatar
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    Well, how you land a "big" halibut really depends on how you define "big" and the size of your deck. If you haven't fished for halibut before, you're likely to consider a forty-pounder pretty big, and forty pounds of thrashing halibut does seem quite a bit larger on a small deck than a big one.

    My wife and I have a Bayliner 2858 with a relatively small deck. Thus, a live 'but has little room to flop about without possibly hurting someone or causing damage. For that reason, I won't land a fish larger than about sixty lbs without first putting a .410 between his eyes. Truly large fish (150 lbs +) may need to be popped twice. I like to let the big boys bleed out some before I gaff and land them.

    When preparing to shoot or gaff a halibut, do NOT bring the fish all the way to the surface. Once the head breaks water, they will usually thrash and dive. Keep them just under the water until you are ready to shoot or gaff, then have someone slowly bring them up. Do the deed just before they break the surface. If you're shooting, aim between and slightly behind the eyes. The brain is tiny and can be easy to miss.

    A fish weighing more than thirty-five pounds still merits caution and a bit of common sense. Clear the deck of loose equipment so you have room to move about without tripping and the 'but has some room to thrash. Gaff the fish and bring it on deck. Remove the gaff quickly, grab a club or fish-whacker, and beat its brains in. Problem solved.

    Good luck, and good fishing.

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    Member AK_Kid's Avatar
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    Also agree with the previous poster about keeping smaller, tastier fish and letting the big breeders go (unless you're feeding family, of course).

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    Member arcticfox77's Avatar
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    Default another option...

    gaff the halibut, give it a good whack between the eyes, and tie it off the side of your boat and tow it back to harbor. saves alot of deck space.

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    Default tie em up

    We have "hogtied" some of the bigger ones to keep them from flopping and save some space on deck.

  7. #7

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    Don't worry about releasing halibut. They'll be just fine when you let them go.

  8. #8

    Default Buoy

    I had to laugh when my friend told me how he handles bigger halibut. He has a large buoy that he uses. He harpoons it, and then detaches the cable from the harpoon stick and attaches a large buoy to the cable to it and lets it go to swim around. The bigger ones actually pull the buoy under water for a while, but they do come up eventually. The idea is they completely exhaust themselves then he can bring it in the boat. Kinda feel bad for the fish a little thinking they are getting away, but a little funny too.

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    Thanks....Great info guys, and some funny stuff too

    A big halibut to me, I don't know, I've never caught one. But I'm guessing anything over 30-40lbs will be pretty dang big to us. I can't imagine trying to keep a 100lb fish still while I remove the hook and release it, this seems like something that will land me in the drink! I guess I'm surprised you guys don't use hook removers so you're not leaning over the water so far, one tug from a large fish, and sploosh I would think.

    I do not think I'll have a gun with us, so that most likely is not an option. When they are roped off the boat, do you ever bring your rope back up and only have a head or one side of the fish left? Guess I'm a little worried about attracting other fish that will eat my catch. I have requested some pics and info on the boat we'll be using, I'm not sure it really has decks, I think it's more bathtub shaped, I should know that soon though.

    Do halibut generally not swallow hooks?

    wildog, I've heard of people doing that with fish that school, I think it was called the redneck fish finder/sonar rig

  10. #10
    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishnPhil View Post
    Thanks....Great info guys, and some funny stuff too

    A big halibut to me, I don't know, I've never caught one. But I'm guessing anything over 30-40lbs will be pretty dang big to us. I can't imagine trying to keep a 100lb fish still while I remove the hook and release it, this seems like something that will land me in the drink! I guess I'm surprised you guys don't use hook removers so you're not leaning over the water so far, one tug from a large fish, and sploosh I would think.

    I do not think I'll have a gun with us, so that most likely is not an option. When they are roped off the boat, do you ever bring your rope back up and only have a head or one side of the fish left? Guess I'm a little worried about attracting other fish that will eat my catch. I have requested some pics and info on the boat we'll be using, I'm not sure it really has decks, I think it's more bathtub shaped, I should know that soon though.

    Do halibut generally not swallow hooks?

    wildog, I've heard of people doing that with fish that school, I think it was called the redneck fish finder/sonar rig
    For releasing just hold the leader in one hand and use a long handled hook remover to pop the hook out.

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    Default Circle Hooks - The key to an easy release

    Using at least a 16/0 circle hook is the key to not having them swallow the bait real deep. It still happens sometimes - but most of the time they will be hooked on the lip or jaw. Attach a rope to the ones your going to keep, cut the gills just under the gill plate to bleed it out. Tie it off outside the boat until your ready to leave.

    One handy tool to make up is described below:
    I go the the local welding supply store and buy some large diameter brazing rods- cut them into about thiry inch lengths (some 24'') and bend a small half moon loop into each one. Bend a small diameter eye on each end - one at ninety degrees - the other straight. Attached a 12 foot piece of rope on end and use electrical tape or heat shrink to cover the attachement. Now when its done you have a very easy way to run a rope thru the gills of a large halibut without sticking your hand in their mouth.
    Use the thirty inch one's for the HUGE halibut and the 24s for medium size.
    Last edited by akfishnut; 03-24-2009 at 13:09. Reason: Spelling
    How stupid is it to be wasting tons of salmon and halibut as bycatch in the Bering Sea and then have the coastal villages hollaring they have no food? It's got to stop!

  12. #12
    Member AK_Kid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishnPhil View Post
    can't imagine trying to keep a 100lb fish still while I remove the hook and release it, this seems like something that will land me in the drink! I guess I'm surprised you guys don't use hook removers so you're not leaning over the water so far, one tug from a large fish, and sploosh I would think.

    I do not think I'll have a gun with us, so that most likely is not an option. When they are roped off the boat, do you ever bring your rope back up and only have a head or one side of the fish left? Guess I'm a little worried about attracting other fish that will eat my catch.
    Trying to remove a hook from the mouth of a 150# halibut so that you can release her is pretty unwise. The hooks are designed to rust away, so if you have to cut a leader and let one go with a hook in its mouth, that's okay. Better than risking fish finger or a hook in the hand.

    If you rope off a couple of halibut and pull up only heads, you should just count yourself lucky that the orca didn't get you too. Nothing's going to eat your 'buts.

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    Default Harpoon

    When we get a good sized fish alongside we punch it through (make sure it's all the way through) the shoulder portion behind the gills up in near the spine. The harpoons they sell at Sportsmans work nice. The head will come loose on the far side of the fish but with heavy, very strong cord tied off on a cleat you'll be fine. We usually see one huge surge from the fish. We've found a 22 mag birdshot load right behind the eyes does the trick from there. We use the 22M birdshot since it will kill the fish but won't penetrate a hull etc if there is some type of mishap aboard. Using the harpoon secured to a cleat is a solid we to conrol the fish and lets you make the call as to whether to lash it alongside or hual it in.
    Gaffs: We use a very strong gaff with a good sized handle (like you see on a short shovel) Sink the gaff in and use that handle to get a strong grip to pull the fish onboard. When your hands are wet and tired a shovel type handle is really handy.
    I hope that helps.

  14. #14
    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
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    Default You already have one

    Quote Originally Posted by DRIFTER_016 View Post
    For releasing just hold the leader in one hand and use a long handled hook remover to pop the hook out.
    I let a fish go once.

    We just use our gaff as the hook remover. On small fish take the leader in your left hand and the gaff in the right. Catch the leader with the gaff and run the gaff to the fish's mouth. Spreading your hands apart give it a "pop". By pulling the leader down and back towards the tail you are positioning the hook to release.
    On big fish let a buddy handle the leader. Leader going down & back and the gaff going forward, sharp yank and it frees right up. Some feisty big ones take a couple of tries and you might get damp.
    Live life and love it
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    Member CanCanCase's Avatar
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    1) Get fish close to boat, but DO not remove head from water.
    2) harpoon fish (this makes it mad)
    3) reel in the harpooned fish again (at least she can't sound and run deep!)
    4) use long bladed knife under gill plates and cut gills as much as you can before she gets mad and runs away again.

    As long as you get the gills bleeding good, she'll run and pump all the blood out... when the orange ball stops moving violently, the fish is mostly bled out and you can reel her in and tie her up or bring her aboard.

    -Case
    M/V CanCan - 34' SeaWolf - Bandon, OR
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  16. #16
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    Default Large halibut

    Back in 93 I was using the orange ball method when killing large halibut and found a major flaw to that method. My customers had hooked one of the largest halibut that I had ever seen. I took out my trusty harpon, with a twenty ft rope attached to it, and that hooked to a fifty ft line to pull the float back to the boat. Will I struck the fish right in the eye and it took off and ran out about 50 ft and stopped. All of a sudden the float went under the water. I had never seen that happend before. I used that same float to pull my anchor and never did it go under like that. Well the next thing I new the float came out of the water about ten ft into the air. The harpon line was cut like a knife had been taken to it. I did not see any killer whales so my guess is a large salmon shark took it. Now days I use a short 10ft harpon line and if it is realy big I use a 38 bang stick on them.

  17. #17
    Member AKMarmot's Avatar
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    Default hog tie for more room

    If you really have little deck space it works good to hot tie them. Easier to control & pick up as well.
    Like you said if you can get a good hold with a gaff, then cut the gills & bleed them out it helps immensly. Then run you line through & tie them off. However, when you lift it out of the water with the gaff be ready or have a good strong hold on it.
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    Default Hog Tie

    If you can manage the hog tie it sure is nice, I've done that on occasion and you don't get a lot of flop out of them. Since then I've learned a trick from a commercial fishing friend of mine. Halibut have a sweet spot on their head, one good whack with a bat and they are all done. Unfortunately it's best shown because it's hard to describe the spot. I dropped a 150+ lb fish in one hit in that spot. It's about halfway between their eyes and the top of the gill slit. you'll know if you hit 'em right because the green/brown side immediately bleaches out to a creamy green/brown color. To answer the predator question, it really depends on where in Alaska you are fishing, for the most part you don't have to worry, but there are a few places where sharks have taken fish. If you are on the inside waters of Southeast you don't have much to worry about.

  19. #19

    Smile harpoon/shoot....

    Your options may be some what limited by your boat. I like to harpoon a fish over 60 lbs. and tie it off to the boat. Then I shoot it between the eyes with a .410 or .38. I use a 3 strand 15' nylon 1/4" line on my harpoon head becuse it stretchs and is easier to handle then a smaller diamater cord. I carry 2 harpoon heads rigged like this. I have a old plastic curtain rod with 3/16 cord on it that I attach 1/4" 3 strand nylon line to for running through the gills and cleating off. A knife poke by the gills will bleed them. When they are dead I toss them in the fish box. If the fish box is full they stay in the water untill we head to shore and I throw them on deck and tie them off to the rail. I carry a rubber coated dead blow hammer for a halibut whacker as I can deliver a more precise blow with it then a club. Treat a big fish with respect, none of them are worth anyones personal safety. I wish I had a film of the 80 to 100 lb. halibut I shot in the head with a .22 back in the early 80's. It went under the 18' Zodiac, came out of the water on the other side of the boat and tail walked away from us for a good 15' in a mad thrashing sort of way, then dove and got off. This all took a very few seconds and was very darn impressive!

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