Sitka: Fishing for the Halibut
Right at the first of August, I fulfilled a life-long dream to fish Alaskan waters for salmon, ling cod and halibut. Little did I know that we’d have one of the best sport-fishing halibut excursions our guides had witnessed in a lifetime of fishing.
See Also: Good Reason for Regulations and The Sea Lion and 4 King Salmon
Just for the Halibut
On the final day, 5 of us had taken our limit of King Salmon and the day was still long. We had a choice, we could search for silvers which we already knew had not fully arrived in the waters off Sitka or we could fish for the halibut.
We chose the latter, of course.
No sooner had my ball of salmon innards touched bottom with a pound of sinker at a couple hundred feet or so and I had my first nod of trouble. Yeah, the rumor is true. Hauling in any halibut weighing more than 80 pounds is like hauling up a 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4-inch plywood. (Though I never did figure out who actually tried comparing the wood laminate to the fish.)
That young buck in the photo above is my thirty-something nephew-in-law, John Hawkins, of the Litehouse Dressings family. I had another athletic nephew-in-law along as well in Nate Lunde, of a different family tree. Had our party of 3 aging men not had youth along, we’d probably died out there on the blue waters.
But these guys got into it.
We elders (me included) justified our eagerness to hand over the rod as wisdom. Though these younger warriors of the water had most of the “fun”, their facial expressions told us they readily accepted the challenge we afforded them.
I did, however, actually fight and land one of these entirely by myself; I did, yes, albeit a smaller one. LOL, tongue in cheek.
So Why Did We Have To Release So Many Halibut?
As of this year, Sitka waters have a regulations that force non-resident sport fishers to release any halibut and ling cod over a certain size. We released 10 halibut, believe it or not brought to the boat, that ranged between 80 and 150 pounds or more. You don’t just lift one up and weigh it, ya know.
I hope I have that right. There’s no need to lie about it when your back aches and your arms are exhausted of strength. Well, maybe that is reason enough to tell a fib. But as I remember it, our guide Gary Burnhardt and his Father, Bob Burnhardt released 10 halibut and 2 out-sized Ling Cod, any one of which could have filled half my box freezer with white fish steaks.
The reason we had to release them was that the larger fish were females laden with eggs. The Sitka sport fishing industry is dependent on a good crop of these migrating fish returning to these waters every year along with all five species of salmon, hence the rules.
Our plane, flying out to Seattle, largely populated by fishermen, was full to the gills with men, women and fish. So many in fact, that the flight attendant actually asked for a volunteer or two to stay behind so that the airline would not have to ship some boxes of frozen fish at a later date.
Thankfully someone, baited by a very good bargain offer, volunteered to step aside so that we could fly home with all our legal catch. In our case that was about 100 pounds of salmon, halibut and rock bass fillets, flash frozen by the capable hands of the Sitka packing company.