Big Halibut - Which comes first, harpoon or shoot?



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  • Big Halibut - Which comes first, harpoon or shoot?

    Lets assume you catch a large halibut that is not a record breaker and you want to keep it, kill it, and haul it into the boat safetly.
    Would you shoot it or harpoon it first? And why?
    How would you haul in a fish weighing over 200 pounds with just 2 adults in the boat? Two gafs? Block and tackle?

  • #2
    Big Buts

    I am not a big fan of the harpoon. Especially in a smaller boat. Just something else in the way and possibly get tangled up in. I prefer to shoot them. From experience, my friend and I were in my 18 foot Klamath when I lived in Dutch Harbor when he hooked a good sized fish. It was every bit of 6 foot long when he finally got it to the boat. After shooting it twice and dragging it backwards, he and I tied a piece of rope in the mouth and around the tail and we hauled it over the side and into the boat. It was all the 2 of us could do to get it into the boat, but we succeeded. When we got to the boat harbor and weighed the fish, it came to 185 pounds. To do it over again, think i would have suggested the both of us grabbing hold or gaffing in the mouth or head area and pulling the fish into the boat that way. Most of the time, if your luck is like mine, you catch smaller ones that are easy to deal with and worry about what to do with the big one when you do end up getting one.
    Kudos to you if you did get a big one.


    • #3
      We gave up on the shooting business a LONG time ago. No need.

      We have the line from our harpoon attached to a buoy, and simply let them fight buoy for a little while. Then you can gently pull up on the rope and pop them on the head with a billy. If you've done your job with the harpoon (high in the gut just behind the pectoral fin), then it only takes one person on the harpoon line and one with a gaff in the head to pull really big halibut aboard. A 12" gaff works best, so you pretty much have the halibut's head above the gunnel when the gaff handle is chest high. Lots of folks have gaffs way too long for handling big, dead fish. I've got a 3' gunnel and two of us pulled a 314 over the side in the first try.
      "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
      Merle Haggard


      • #4
        Big Halibut...

        Three weeks ago, I was lucky enough to hook into and land a 238lb halibut. The Captain gaffed the fish and the Deckhand harpooned it. A second gaff was used to hold its head up to bonk him in the head with a bat. Once the harpoon/knocks to the head subdued the 'but, we used two gaffs to lift him in. I asked the Captain why we didn't shoot, he said he only uses the gun for need for a gun on halibut after the harpoon-bouy method was used.
        When all else fails...ask your old-man.



        • #5
          Harpoon, then shoot. That's what we do. I fear the chance of missing with the gun, hook coming out and losing the fish. If anything, we always shoot bigger fish. If a fish that size gets on the deck and is still alive and starts flopping around, people can get hurt and things can get broken.


          • #6

            I'm a harpoon fan. I've seen one big fish lost after a guy shot it and managed to damage the fishing line in the process. The fish thrashed slightly and broke the line and sank. Once it is 'pooned you have much more control. The bouy works great and I have yet to get a fish that can pull my 18" buoy completely under (still holding out hope to see it!). Plus the saltwater is hard on guns!

            The porcupine is a peaceful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....


            • #7
              With the harpoon/buoy method, be sure to back off on your drag before sticking her. That 314 pulled an 18" buoy completely under and out of sight, held it down for about 10 seconds, then resurfaced. Pulled it completely out of sight two more times, but popped back quicker each time. Docile as a baby when we pulled up on the line for the head bop. Not a quiver afterward.
              "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
              Merle Haggard


              • #8
                harpoon halibut

                I will harpoon the big butts right behind or thru the gill plate and have the fight of the fish rip the gills and start the bleeding. The fish is let go with the bouy and reel on free spool. I want to get the fish before the sharks do so will bring it to the boat when lethargic and shoot a .410 slug from a snakecharmer right behind the left eye. End of game. A gaff and 2 people can slide the fish aboard.


                • #9
                  I've brought them into my 22 foot jetboat that weighed well over 150 pounds a couple of time. I have the harpoon ready and attached to a bouy. One guy handles the rope and the bouy because you do not want to get tangled up in the rope. As was stated earlier they will pull the bouy out of sight for a few seconds and you don't want to be 50 feet down tangled in the rope. Once they are back to the boat a gaff in the lower side of the head and a billy to the top of the head is in order. They are tremendously powerful when first brought on board and you darn well want to make sure they are dead first. I like to run a rope through their mouth and out a gill then roll them up with a loop around the tail. That way if they get energetic again they are all trussed up.


                  • #10
                    The biggest halibut I ever caught weighed 175 and it was a huge chore for my brother and I to get it in my old boat (19 foot Sea Runner). We harpooned it first and it buried the buoy for 30 seconds then we shot it.
                    Thanks for the advice so far as it has opened my mind to some choices. We currently carry a harpoon and a bouy and two gafs, one about 4 feet long and one shorter (3 feet) all metal with a gripping handle in the middle. I really do not have desire to boat a halibut over 200 and most likely would let it go after pictures and measuring it.
                    This topic could also pertains to sharks. Since the cleats on my Sea Sport are thru bolted on the gunnels I was thinking of carrying a small block and tackle and attaching the rope to the gaf stuck in the sharks head and slowly winching it over the gunnel.
                    Please, dont get the idea we are landing huge halibut every time we go out, lol. I just want us to be prepared!


                    • #11
                      Snake Charmer fan

                      I guess I just like to end it quick. Or maybe I'm anxious to shoot something in the middle of the summer. Anyway: halibut to boat; fisherman brings up head; partner places one quick shot behind eye; cut gills; thread line through gills, and tie fish off to cleat to bleed out. On to next fish. No thrashing, no bloody deck, no needless steps. Generally even the cheeks are still intact. When you're ready to move on pull up your cooled fish with the rope and by the tail. Don't forget you have a fish tied to your cleat!


                      • #12
                        Shoot or harpoon

                        I fish out of a 26" Alaskan Sea Runner. I harpoon the fish, shoot it and run a line through the gills and cleat it off. Any flexible rod about 3' long works for running the line through the gills. The harpoon line is 12' of 3 strand nylon because it has 25 % stretch. I know one very successful Seward charter boat that does not use the harpoon. If I was in a 18' open skiff I would have a small buoy tied of mid-way in the harpoon line to give a big fish something to fight against besides the boat. We use lever drag reels for halibut and it is very easy to back the drag off a bit when a big fish is beside the boat.


                        • #13

                          On the rare occasion that I get a large halibut, I'll first shoot it and then harpoon it (with buoy attached). The shot generally stuns the fish pretty good if not outright kills it, then the harpoon. Harpoon makes it easier to haul on board.


                          • #14

                            We harpoon the fish. After it stops thrashing from that, we pull it back to the boat and I slit its gills with a fillet knife to bleed it out while still in the water. After 15 or twenty minutes, we haul it aboard. If there is any life left in the critter, we wack it with the halibat.


                            • #15
                              Harpoon vs. Shooting

                              Guess I've BTDT using both methods individually and in combination.

                              The harpoon job works fine. There are two drawbacks the way I see it: (1) it's a two person operation, so if you're out solo you're SOL and (2) they generally go beserk after you harpoon them [whereas, if shot, they are stunned and lie still.]

                              I've never had a problem shooting them. About the only way you can subdue one by yourself.

                              Here's a 150#er that I subdued single-handed:

                              I use my .44 loaded to 44 spl levels. About 6.5 gr Unique with a 240 gr lead SWC seems to work good. Don't use full-house loads.

                              The hard part is getting the habibut into a safe shooting position and making the shot. Obviously, rough seas would be a problem. Here in S.E., we don't have to deal with the open ocean swell. After shot, you can get a shark hook into 'em. If solo, I tail lasso them and drag 'to a beach somewhere for filleting. Usually not to far to get 'em to shore.

                              Here's one tied off the the side of the boat. This one is about #210 that we caught this past June.

                              One last thing, if you bring a big one onto a boat, you better hog-tie them. I don't care how dead you think the SOB is, they can come back to life at any time. I've had one side totally filleted out and the thing is still trying to flop around.



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