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.