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Thread: What Is the Best Way to Release Large Halibut

  1. #1
    Member AK_Kid's Avatar
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    Default What Is the Best Way to Release Large Halibut

    The wife and I were fishing for halibut near Knight Island in PWS a couple of weeks back. We had hoped to bring home a handful of little guys and avoid the large breeder females. However, we managed to hook into a 150 pounder, and the fight was on.

    Once we realized how big the fish was, we agreed to release her. After a nice little struggle, we brought her up to the surface. She had hit the hook hard - I could clearly see it protruding through the underside of her lower jaw. Because of the size of the fish and how hard the hook was set, I decided it was probably only dangerous to attempt to remove the hook with the pair pliers I have on the boat.

    That left me with two options: 1) cut the leader, leaving the hook in the fish's mouth to rust out over time; or 2) put a .410 behind her eye and feed the entire office fresh 'but. I chose the latter simply because I wasn't sure whether cutting the leader and leaving the hook is a death sentence for the fish.

    With the foregoing example in mind, what is the best way to release large halibut without putting one's hand near the hook or line (in case the fish begins thrashing)? Can a guy just cut the leader, leaving the hook to rust out? Or will that impede the fish's ability to hunt and eat? Any insight will be appreciated.

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    Member TWB's Avatar
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    While I wont recommend it on a fish that size, 60 and under I like to take a gaff and ring it right under the hook, grab the leader real tight-like and stretch it away form the mouth, rotating the hook out then a gentle shake and they pop right off. I generally stay away from the hook with big halibut, they stay rather tame until their head breaches the water
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Default Releasing Halibut

    Hold fish carefully with tongs and gently drop from 1-2 inches into a vat of hot grease, repeat until vat is full or fish is gone.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Cutting the leader and leaving the hook is the best option and will not harm the fish. I have caught many halibut with old hooks in their mouths and none seemed worse for the wear. They can survive just fine with a hook in their mouth.

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    Member AK NIMROD's Avatar
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    ? bolt cutters recommended for hook removal from hands in different thread. but can not imagine them staying still long enough to allow it?????
    have personally never caught one big enough to worry about it.
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    Member Vince's Avatar
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    this only works if you LAND the fish...


    the larger the halibut the better it works but lay them BELLY side up...

    they have a lateral line running nose -tail if you take your finger tips and rub that line briskly they will lay flat... and still

    you can pretty much do what ever you like with them at that point.

    i usualy stick them with a knife in the spine
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

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  7. #7

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    If we forget to bring the bolt cutters, we just cut the leader up against the hook. Bolt cutters are actually easy. Once you grab the hook, it isn't going anywhere. Cut it off just below the eye, and the eye makes a nice "trophy."

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    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    Default I have to say that

    LuJon's technique seems like the best I've seen, plus it will work on halibut of all sizes.

    Seriously though, I'm not sure there's a halibut out there that's so large that I would want to release it...but I'll keep looking!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frostbitten View Post
    Seriously though, I'm not sure there's a halibut out there that's so large that I would want to release it...but I'll keep looking!
    I think a whole lot depends on what and how much you are willing to eat. We don't like them big, dry and course, so we only keep the smaller stuff. Having our own boat and living right on the water lets us make multiple trips to put enough 20 pounders in our freezer for the winter. A guy who lives far away and only makes a few trips a year or one who only goes on a charter boat once a year is going to put away as much as possible in as few trips as possible. Dry, course halibut is better than no halibut at all, of course!

    Our "dividing line" is probably lower than anyone you've ever heard of. We just don't kill anything over about 50 pounds for our own use, and we label anything over 30 separate from the smaller stuff in our freezer. We love to fight the big ones, but they don't come over the side for our own use.

    We have visiting family who want more fish quickly and we'll let them kill any size they want. But their names go on the packs and ALL OF IT goes home with them. I don't care how much they have to pay for excess baggage, it isn't going to live in our freezer all winter.

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    Member fishak's Avatar
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    man i wish i could accidently hook up into one of those monsters

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    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    Default Right on Brown Bear

    perhaps I'll get "the big one" one day...perhaps not. I haven't found a halibut I didn't think was delicious yet, but I haven't found one over 90 pounds yet either. My statement stands...I'll keep looking.

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    We keep our boat in Whittier and manage to get out on the water seven or eight weekends each summer. After a half decade of exploring the Sound, we have discovered a few holes that produce good numbers - and some pretty good sized fish. At this point, we usually catch more fish than the family can eat in a year in just one or two trips out.

    However, we really enjoy the fishing and prefer to release the big females. Not only are they a bit dry, but since we just can't eat all the fish we catch I would prefer to let the big girls keep on breeding.

    I do like the bolt cutter idea, and I appreciate knowing that the fish appear to be able to get by with a hook in the mouth if the leader is cut. Maybe in the depths, a big ol' circle hook through the lip is trendy? Lord knows members of our own species sometimes stick some pretty strange pieces of metal through our own lips, noses, ears, and eyebrows....

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    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Default Hook will go away

    Like Brian M I also have caught several Halibut over the years with old rusting hooks still in the mouth somehow and the fish was doing fine enough to hit my bait, they will be fine if you just cut the leader. If hooked as you described they'll shake it eventually

    In fact IPHC the International Pacific Halibut Commission, those responsible for managing the commercial Halibut catch and how to deal with bycatch issues actually recommend cutting the gangion or leader as opposed to bringing the fish aboard if you are releasing fish that are over your quota or if targeting another species like P Cod, for example. The studies are out there I guess and this is an approved method. The least traumatic to the fish promoting it's recovery.

    Kudos to your choice to release "Breeding Females" in my opinion they not only are not the best tasting (we also fish similar to Brownbear in keeping only under 50 mostly 20-25's are preferred) As fun as it may be to bring them up and try to bring on board. It's good thinking to let them go while still in the water.
    Good Post to consider, Thanks
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

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    Rolling the hook out of the fish using a gaff, as described at the beginning of this thread, works great with J-hooks that are in the fish's jaw. Circle hooks are harder to get out, but usually pretty easy with some practice. An alterantive is to slip the gaff under the very end of the circle hook and pull the entire hook through the fish's jaw. Then cut the leader and the fish is free to swim away. There are a coupleof advantages to this method. Pulling the eye of the hook through the fish can cause less damage than pulling the barb through. You don't need to get anywhere near as close to the fish this way, so you are likelier to stay in the boat.

    Big_E

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    Member ACNDHO's Avatar
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    Default blued hooks

    Had a charter friend in Ketchikan that would only rig up blue hooks for this very reason. Blue hooks will rust quicker and the belly acid will eat it too. Cutting the leader as close as possible and letting the big girls go.
    As for hook type, if you think you may be releasing fish J hooks are easier to undo than circle hooks if there is a chance to keep the hook. Or go halibut fishing trout style, barbless, it may be tough but worth a try.
    Even a jackass won't stumble on the same stone twice.

  16. #16

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    I've always cut the leader off at the hook. I've never caught one with an old hook in it, but I was told (by somebody?) that the hooks rusted / degraded out quickly, like within a few days. I have no idea if that's true. Maybe some of the biology type guys can give us the scoop.(homerdave?) If that isn't true, (and it seems it isn't if Brian and Kodiak have evidence) then maybe making an attempt to remove it would be better.

  17. #17
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homertime View Post
    If that isn't true, (and it seems it isn't if Brian and Kodiak have evidence) then maybe making an attempt to remove it would be better.
    I really don't think it is true that such a large hook rusts out so quickly, but I am convinced that it does not harm the fish in the slightest. As more evidence that the hooks do not rust out quickly, we've caught plenty of sleeper sharks that have two or three hooks in their mouths. Of course I can't tell how long they've been in there, but certainly more than a few days. Of the halibut we've caught with hooks in their mouths (not common, but certainly more than a few), none showed any sign of biological distress. All were healthy and apparently feeding well.

  18. #18
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Default Same here

    Yeah, pretty much the same opinion here that the hook doesn't necessarily rust out quickly, my evidences have usually looked like it has been there for a long time (these are commercial grade stainless hooks that are showing signs of rust) but that the fish showed no signs of being bothered in any way as a result of carrying this hook around. no wound on the mouth, some have even looked totally healed around the hook but the pce of stainless was still in there, so Long Time, Little Effect on health. This is just a few times tho over many years and literally millions of hooks run off boats from Ketchikan to Adak and the Pribilofs. So not something common by any means.
    This also doesn't at all speak to the possibility that a lot of these fish may die after having gangions cut. Nobody knows about that, we just know what we see.
    For example to pull a fish up til it's weight pulls the hook out and rips flesh with it DEFINITELY BAD. Bring it aboard to thrash around while you try to remove hook -POTENTIALLY NOT SO EASY ON FISH

    Would be interesting to see if the IPHC has anything written up on "releasing halibut by leaving hook, cutting gangion" with science behind it.

    I believe they are more concerned about the trauma caused to the fish by bringing it aboard, out of it's environment and slapping around on deck, for the time it takes to remove hook. Then Handling like someone picking it up by the tail to throw back over which is vicious on the spinal column of even small fish. So they assume it would be easier on the fish to have a hook in the lip than an "Experience with Fisherman" on deck

    My personal policy is to use gaff hook and slide it down to hook turning and twisting it upside down, if practiced it is very effective and easy on fish, do it while they are still in the water or outside the rail of your boat. Am convinced this is very easy on fish and they will not have to either carry rusty hooks around or scars on lips,etc.

    Not always easy to do but well worth it for the future.
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  19. #19
    Member Deak's Avatar
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    Default Cutting leaders?

    Plenty of my kids teenage friends have metal objects pierced in their mouth & face. Cutting the leader and leaving the halibut with its own cool circle hook piercing is probably preferable to the stress of yanking it out.

  20. #20
    Member JR2's Avatar
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    Halibut are very very tough fish. I have seen them missing portions of there tails and with bites out of them and other than the obvious missing parts are perfectly healthy. I have also seen healthy halibut with there jaws ripped on one side, I don't think you can hurt a halibut as long as you don't gaff it in the gut or gills you can do what ever you want to get the hook out. The commerical guys used to use two upright posts and just suck the fish through the posts to get them off when they where too small. Thankfully that gizmo was outlawed, but there are still butts swimming around with broken jaws that lived through it.

    I have released a few fish that big and I just cut the leader off, unless the hook can be cut that is the best way. That reminds me, I need to get a new bolt cutter.

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