Article: Alaska Fishing – Living the Dream
By David G. Duncan
Miss AnneWell, at least the boat was a seasoned veteran of these waters, but its current captain was as green as they come, in regard to traveling the unforgiving waters, that Halibut fishermen must ply to find these barn door sized fish. Up until this point all our fishing had been done, while perched safely on shore. We had no problem catching our limit of Silver Salmon by casting spinner into the waters of Valdez Bay.
Silver Salmon caught at Allison Point by Miss June.As you can imagine, the fishing gear needed to hook and land a fish that can easily out weigh the average fisherman, requires some heavy-duty tackle. Heavy rods, with pulley rollers on their tips and deep-sea reels wounded with 100 pound test line were standard requirements. In addition, all good halibut fisherman needs a harpoon! I got the distinct feeling that I might be getting in over my head, when I found out that I would be wielding a harpoon into my prey, like some ancient whaler in pursuit of Mobby Dick.
Valdez Fishing Derby Leader BoardBased on these posted weighs of the Halibut caught during a recent Valdez Fishing Derby, you can get a real appreciation of how Halibut fishing might be a lot like whaling! I could just imagine, as the captain of the “Miss Anne” yelling to my crew, “Break out the harpoon, we have a 300 pound great white bellied Halibut at the surface!” Fishing for Halibut requires a lot of preparation, that goes well beyond being equipped with all the heavy duty fishing gear. There are tide data charts to study. The rising and falling of the tide is a major factor on whether a Halibut fisherman is going to be successful, at least in the Prince William Sound. You want to plan to drop your anchor in 100 to 200 foot of water at a prime fishing spot about an hour before low tide. The logic for timing the tide is due to the need to keep your bait on the bottom, whether than having it moved about by the maximum current caused by the rising and falling tides. The 2-hour time period, when the tide is changing directions, is called the slack tide and permits your bait (half of a foot long herring) to rest fairly motionless on the bottom. In my opinion the most important preparation required before heading out to fish Halibut is to get the latest weather report. I made it a strict rule, I would not venture out (sometimes over 40 miles) into Prince William Sound, if there were any chance of small craft warning during the next 24 hours. I also cancelled trips, if the seas were forecasted to exceed 4 foot during that day.
Anchored for Halibut in a Bay off Prince William SoundAll prudent Halibut fishermen take the precaution of attaching a stout line to all their gear, so they don’t want to lose their expensive gear overboard. You will note in this photo, the rod has a rope attached from it to the boat. Besides the rod, your gaff hook and cable to the harpoon point are firmly attached by a good rope to the boat. This photo was taken on the day I caught my 90# Halibut. It was a beautiful day and we anchor in about 180 foot of water. Shortly after pulling our lines in the water, June pointed to shore and exclaimed, “Look there is a grizzly walking down the beach!” Seeing grizzly bears (or brown bear as they are called near the coast) has become very commonplace to us, but this was one time we were glad we were not doing our fishing from shore! On prior outings near this bay, we had been treated to a view of two huge sea lions swimming around the boat. I believe they were looking for a handout, as they performed stunts, like swimming on their back only a foot below the surface and a few feet off the back of the boat. The water was super clear and we had not problem looking them square in their soul piercing eyes, as they appeared to be begging us to toss them some fresh herring.