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Thread: Trolling for halibut?

  1. #1
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    Default Trolling for halibut?

    A friend of mine has been going to Sitka every August (1st week) for the past 10 years. The target species include Chinook (the last few of the season), coho (six per day), and halibut.

    However, each year they manage to land at least one decent halibut while trolling for salmon. That is, they're in 300+ feet of water, trolling 30 to 50 feet down with normal salmon gear (cut herring, spoons, etc). And every year someone in their party lands nice halibut while doing so. Last year, they landed one that went 100lbs! Maybe I'm just inexperienced, but I've never heard of anyone else hooking a halibut 30 feet below the surface while in 300+ feet of water. But it seems to happen somewhat regularly in some areas. Has anyone else experienced this?

    I've always thought halibut were bottom dwelling fish, but maybe not.....

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cohoangler View Post
    A friend of mine has been going to Sitka every August (1st week) for the past 10 years. The target species include Chinook (the last few of the season), coho (six per day), and halibut.

    However, each year they manage to land at least one decent halibut while trolling for salmon. That is, they're in 300+ feet of water, trolling 30 to 50 feet down with normal salmon gear (cut herring, spoons, etc). And every year someone in their party lands nice halibut while doing so. Last year, they landed one that went 100lbs! Maybe I'm just inexperienced, but I've never heard of anyone else hooking a halibut 30 feet below the surface while in 300+ feet of water. But it seems to happen somewhat regularly in some areas. Has anyone else experienced this?

    I've always thought halibut were bottom dwelling fish, but maybe not.....
    It's very common around here in Homer in shallower water than that, but I never troll in 300 ft. of water so can't speak to that. I catch them all the time trolling for kings in up to 100 ft. of water with my downriggers set at 35 ft. or so. In fact just a few days ago we were trolling for kings and caught 5 halibut incidentally, but they were all in the "chicken" category and no big bruisers. The biggest one I've ever caught incidentally was about 70 lbs. and I was in about 60 ft. of water at the time. I've heard of people catching bigger ones, though.
    Year round saltwater fishing adventures in Homer, AK.
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  3. #3

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    It's real common, though I've never had it happen in 300 feet of water. Inside 150 feet of water though, they're likely to hit any time you've got hooks passing closer than about 30 feet off bottom. Slow trolling (2-2.5 mph) is usually better, but I've got them as fast as 3.5. And we're not talking small fish either. Most often they're in the 60-80 pound range, which seem to be the most active about chasing down bait.

    Most folks don't realize it, but halibut are very active predators off bottom. We regularly catch them in midwater in August while jigging for silvers in up to 100 feet of water or so. If there are bait schools up off bottom they'll come right up after it.

    Probably the most notable "trolling" catch for me was when I hooked a pink salmon just under the surface in about 90 feet of water off a headland. We could see the fish! There was a big boil and all heck broke loose. Twenty-five minutes later my 20# line and a lot of cussing yielded up a 135 pound halibut. Still had the pink salmon halfway down it's throat with the hook in it's mouth. The flatty got hooked on the trailing hook.

  4. #4
    Member DucksAndDogs's Avatar
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    Last weekend, we had a chicken follow the bait all the way to the surface. I let the bait coast on the topwater for a bit and he just kept swimming in the current trying to hit the bait. I'd say about a minute or two he was on the surface trying to eat my bait. Two people on here witnessed it.

  5. #5

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    That's real common in the summer, but I'm a little surprised to hear it happening already. That's a good sign for the next few months.

    I've got several friends who are serious light tackle world record chasers. They make a pilgrimage up here every summer to take on halibut and whatever else.

    The lighter the line they're using, the more likely their new record happened just as you describe. One guy has taken up fly fishing for halibut, and it's almost comical. He's the world's worst caster and doesn't even own a sinking fly line. Yet he's popped a few records or come close. Any time someone hooks a halibut he gets his rod ready with not much more than the leader past the tip. If and extra halibut comes up with the one on the hook, he just flops the fly in front of it. Zap! He's nailed a lot of ling cod and a few king salmon that way too. Just gets his fly close to the fish on the line, and the second fish takes over from there. I'm really surprised that the one you saw wasn't more cooperative!

  6. #6
    Member FishGod's Avatar
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    I've caught halibut 250 feet off the bottom trollng. Since halibut do not have a swim bladder, they can move quickly up or down through the water column chasing bait without getting the effects of barotrauma. Have you seen the video on youtube of 30+ chickens feeding at the surface near a charter boat?
    Your bait stinks and your boat is ugly

  7. #7
    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Chicken plucker

    Here is a little one taken during the '09 Homer King Derby.
    120' of H2o, trolling at 65'.

    Sure was a tastey treat.


    Live life and love it
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  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrownBear View Post
    I'm really surprised that the one you saw wasn't more cooperative!
    LOL! The one following the bait to the surface happened on my boat (DucksAndDogs was fishing with me). The reason it didn't grab the bait was we kept pulling the bait away as it swam up to it. We were after kings and didn't want to waste the troll herring we had on the hook since we were planning on heading for the halibut grounds once we were done with kings.
    Year round saltwater fishing adventures in Homer, AK.
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  9. #9

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    Mutt, so YOU"RE the one who wasn't co-operating? LOL Too funny!

    Eel

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    In 2008 we fished the Golden North Salmon Derby, here in Juneau, and caught more Halibut than Salmon while trolling. That was a little weird!

  11. #11

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    Where I fish off POW Is. we strictly mooch for salmon, more then once I've motored around metering for bait, spot a mid-water bait ball and drop gear into it and hook halibut, usually 50-100 down in 200 feet of water. Its happened enough that it no longer suprises me.
    You'll find them where ever the groceries are!

  12. #12
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    Default biggest halibut...

    The biggest halibut I've landed -84 pounds was caught on my king rod trolling for winter kings near Seldovia a few yrs ago in March. We were in 80 ft of water and trolling at 40 ft with herring in a "salmon Killler". Luckily the big fella cooperated and came in the boat very easily and quickly.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by cod View Post
    The biggest halibut I've landed -84 pounds was caught on my king rod trolling for winter kings near Seldovia a few yrs ago in March. We were in 80 ft of water and trolling at 40 ft with herring in a "salmon Killler". Luckily the big fella cooperated and came in the boat very easily and quickly.
    Yeah, I've had quite a few days off Seldovia Point where I've caught halibut after halibut. I've actually moved away from there a few times this winter because I was tired of catching halibut. Kind of weird stopping your fishing activities because you're catching too many halibut.
    Year round saltwater fishing adventures in Homer, AK.
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  14. #14
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    In Kodiak a couple of years ago, we limited out on small halibut up to 20 pounds trolling a flasher and fly in the bay feeding the American and Kalsin Rivers. The water wasn't that deep. We were trolling for silvers.

  15. #15

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    I was out yesterday in close to 200 ft. of water in Cook Inlet plunking for halibut and I glanced at my fishfinder and could see a lot of bait and a bunch of pretty big fish marks around 50 ft. down. I dropped a line about 50 ft. down and started jigging and immediately had hits and then a minute later pulled up a 12 to 15 lb. butt. And then did it again another couple of times. Each one that I pulled up was just disgorging copious amounts of needle fish, so there must have just been masses of needlefish suspended around 50 ft. and the butt were coming up 150 ft. to gorge on them.

    I had one little 10 pounder (or so) follow up one of the ones that I hooked and when it got about 10 ft. below the surface it must have seen something on the surface like a disgorged needlefish and it made a beeline for it and actually jumped about a body's length out of the water. It surprised me so much I think the boat about a mile away from me probably heard the exclamation I made (that can't be posted on a public forum). Darndest thing I've ever seen.
    Year round saltwater fishing adventures in Homer, AK.
    http://muttleycrewfishing.com

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