Web posted Saturday, April 20, 2002

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Halibut

What's out there for anglers to chase


Halibut

The Pacific halibut is the largest and most desired of the sport-caught bottomfish. It attains lengths more than 8 feet, and the Alaska record is 459 pounds.

It is recognized for the almost symmetrical mouth and the arched lateral line. Though many fish exceed 100 pounds, typically they run 20 to 30 pounds. Females grow to be considerably larger than males. They eat fish, crab, clams, octopus and squid; octopus and herring are the most popular baits. Though the fish are found to 600 fathoms, most sport fishing is done within 50 fathoms (300 feet). Large fish, known as "soakers," are found in relatively shallow water around kelp beds and rocky projections.

Because fish of 100 pounds or more are not uncommon, good quality rods and star-drag reels with 40-pound test line or more are required. Circle hooks from size 5/0 to 8/0 are typically employed.

Using a weight heavy enough to take the line to the bottom, the preferred baits of herring or octopus are allowed to sit, with occasional jigging. Halibut seem to be hooked more by those who have a slower reaction time, so it's best to allow the halibut a couple of extra seconds to get the bait into its mouth before setting the hook.

Large halibut can be dangerous. Gaffs must be used carefully, as should firearms used to kill large fish. Once aboard, take care around a thrashing halibut.

King Salmon

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No caption was contained in the photo file

The king, or chinook salmon, grow biggest in the Kenai River, where the Alaska sport record of 97 pounds, 4 ounces was taken. Those in lower Peninsula streams are smaller, typically in the 20- to 30-pound range. The fish are recognized by black spots on its back, dorsal fin and both lobes of the caudal fin, and black gums.

Most kings return to spawn in their fourth or fifth year, though the range is from the second to the eighth. They enter lower Peninsula streams around May 15 and spawn in July. King salmon mostly eat herring and sandlance, with a few rockfish contributing to their diet.

Saltwater fishing is done by trolling with a conventional trolling rod and a star-drag reel, using 20- to 40-pound test line with herring for bait or large spoons or spinners. Flashers can also be employed behind the planer or trolling weight. In this area, kings are found from the surface to depths of 100 feet.

In rivers, most kings are taken by drifting salmon eggs or drift lures such as the Okie Drifter or Spin-N-Glo. Large streamer flies are also used, as are spoons and spinners.

Red Salmon

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No caption was contained in the photo file

The red, or sockeye, salmon grows to 33 inches, and the Alaska record is 16 pounds. Around Cook Inlet they range from four to eight pounds. They are recognized by closely spaced gill rakers, fine black speckling on the back and no spots on the caudal fin. The sockeye spends two to three years in the ocean before returning to its home stream to spawn.

They eat mostly copepods, amphipods, with a few small fish in the diet. They enter freshwater from late May to mid-August.

Few red salmon inhabit lower Peninsula streams. The best fishing nearby is on the Kenai and Russian rivers, but in certain areas angling is restricted to fly fishing only, so red salmon fishermen must understand the regulations before setting out.

Pink Salmon

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No caption was contained in the photo file

The pink, or humpy, reaches 30 inches, with the Alaska record being 12 pounds 9 ounces at that length, though most weigh three to four pounds. It is recognized by the large, oval dark spots on the back and on both lobes of the caudal fin.

Pinks reach maturity in two years. Fish enter streams from mid-July to the end of August, with spawning from early August to late September.

They eat mainly copepods, amphipods, small fish and squid. Anglers should cast small spoons or spinners with line weights of 8 to 12 pounds. These fish will also take bucktails. They are most commonly sought while still in saltwater, before they begin to develop their characteristic hump. Many are taken while surfcasting for silver salmon.

Silver Salmon

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No caption was contained in the photo file

Another highly prized salmon is the silver, or coho. These fish grow to nearly 39 inches, the Alaska record being 26 pounds at 35 inches. A large silver on the Kenai Peninsula is 16 pounds, and most are eight to 12. The coho has black spots confined to the back and upper lobe of the caudal fin only. They differ from kings in that the teeth emerge from a light gumline.

The coho enter freshwater around Homer from August to Oct. 1, and most are 3 to 4 years old. Silvers eat herring, sandlance, squid and other fish and invertebrates.

Trolling and surfcasting are common means of catching cohos in saltwater. They are generally found in the upper 40 feet. Small herring, Pixie spoons, spinners, or streamer flies in blue and white or green and white are productive. Stream fishing is most productive with egg clusters or eggs in conjunction with a small bead or drift lure.

Steel-head

The steelhead is one of the most prized sportfish on the West Coast. It attains lengths to 45 inches; the Alaska record is 42 pounds, three ounces. They are distinguished from salmon by the spotting on the back and sides below the lateral line, spotting on both lobes of the caudal fin and some spotting on the anal fin. The steelhead's mouth has a distinctive white interior.

Though anadromous like the Pacific salmon, not all steelhead die after spawning. Some spawn as many as three times. They begin entering freshwater in mid-August and can be fished as long as the rivers remain ice-free, spawning March through May.

The Lower Peninsula steelhead fishery is catch-and-release only, and bait is not allowed after Sept. 1. They take a variety of tackle, with the most common method drifting small Okie Drifters and Spin-N-Glos. The Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik Rivers are highly productive steelhead streams.

Dolly Varden

Dollies reach lengths to 36 inches and a 20-pound, 12.5-ounce fish has the Alaska record. They have light spots on a dark background, and in freshwater may exhibit pale yellow spots on the back and red-to-orange spots on the sides. Commonly called a trout but more accurately a char, Dolly Varden may be taken on single salmon eggs and small lures when in the rivers. They migrate to saltwater in the early spring and can be taken off the Homer Spit as early as late April, using small spoons and spinners on light line or wet flies that resemble shrimp. In the fall they return to the rivers where they offer the angler a productive fishery. Many are taken by anglers fishing for steelhead.

Irish Lord

Even if you have no luck catching a salmon, you can always go out and catch an Irish lord. It doesn't matter what bait you use, since just about anything works when fished on or near the bottom. Baits include herring and shrimp, but spoons, spinners, banana peels, cigar butts, bologna sandwiches and potato salad will probably work if you can keep them on the hook. Irish Lords can be recognized as "ugly with a big mouth and bulging eyes." If you catch something matching that description, you've no doubt got one.

Halibut

The Pacific halibut is the largest and most desired of the sport-caught bottomfish. It attains lengths more than 8 feet, and the Alaska record is 459 pounds.

It is recognized for the almost symmetrical mouth and the arched lateral line. Though many fish exceed 100 pounds, typically they run 20 to 30 pounds. Females grow to be considerably larger than males. They eat fish, crab, clams, octopus and squid; octopus and herring are the most popular baits. Though the fish are found to 600 fathoms, most sport fishing is done within 50 fathoms (300 feet). Large fish, known as "soakers," are found in relatively shallow water around kelp beds and rocky projections.

Because fish of 100 pounds or more are not uncommon, good quality rods and star-drag reels with 40-pound test line or more are required. Circle hooks from size 5/0 to 8/0 are typically employed.

Using a weight heavy enough to take the line to the bottom, the preferred baits of herring or octopus are allowed to sit, with occasional jigging. Halibut seem to be hooked more by those who have a slower reaction time, so it's best to allow the halibut a couple of extra seconds to get the bait into its mouth before setting the hook.

Large halibut can be dangerous. Gaffs must be used carefully, as should firearms used to kill large fish. Once aboard, take care around a thrashing halibut.

King Salmon

The king, or chinook salmon, grow biggest in the Kenai River, where the Alaska sport record of 97 pounds, 4 ounces was taken. Those in lower Peninsula streams are smaller, typically in the 20- to 30-pound range. The fish are recognized by black spots on its back, dorsal fin and both lobes of the caudal fin, and black gums.

Most kings return to spawn in their fourth or fifth year, though the range is from the second to the eighth. They enter lower Peninsula streams around May 15 and spawn in July. King salmon mostly eat herring and sandlance, with a few rockfish contributing to their diet.

Saltwater fishing is done by trolling with a conventional trolling rod and a star-drag reel, using 20- to 40-pound test line with herring for bait or large spoons or spinners. Flashers can also be employed behind the planer or trolling weight. In this area, kings are found from the surface to depths of 100 feet.

In rivers, most kings are taken by drifting salmon eggs or drift lures such as the Okie Drifter or Spin-N-Glo. Large streamer flies are also used, as are spoons and spinners.

Red Salmon

The red, or sockeye, salmon grows to 33 inches, and the Alaska record is 16 pounds. Around Cook Inlet they range from four to eight pounds. They are recognized by closely spaced gill rakers, fine black speckling on the back and no spots on the caudal fin. The sockeye spends two to three years in the ocean before returning to its home stream to spawn.

They eat mostly copepods, amphipods, with a few small fish in the diet. They enter freshwater from late May to mid-August.

Few red salmon inhabit lower Peninsula streams. The best fishing nearby is on the Kenai and Russian rivers, but in certain areas angling is restricted to fly fishing only, so red salmon fishermen must understand the regulations before setting out.

Pink Salmon

The pink, or humpy, reaches 30 inches, with the Alaska record being 12 pounds 9 ounces at that length, though most weigh three to four pounds. It is recognized by the large, oval dark spots on the back and on both lobes of the caudal fin.

Pinks reach maturity in two years. Fish enter streams from mid-July to the end of August, with spawning from early August to late September.

They eat mainly copepods, amphipods, small fish and squid. Anglers should cast small spoons or spinners with line weights of 8 to 12 pounds. These fish will also take bucktails. They are most commonly sought while still in saltwater, before they begin to develop their characteristic hump. Many are taken while surfcasting for silver salmon.

Silver Salmon

Another highly prized salmon is the silver, or coho. These fish grow to nearly 39 inches, the Alaska record being 26 pounds at 35 inches. A large silver on the Kenai Peninsula is 16 pounds, and most are eight to 12. The coho has black spots confined to the back and upper lobe of the caudal fin only. They differ from kings in that the teeth emerge from a light gumline.

The coho enter freshwater around Homer from August to Oct. 1, and most are 3 to 4 years old. Silvers eat herring, sandlance, squid and other fish and invertebrates.

Trolling and surfcasting are common means of catching cohos in saltwater. They are generally found in the upper 40 feet. Small herring, Pixie spoons, spinners, or streamer flies in blue and white or green and white are productive. Stream fishing is most productive with egg clusters or eggs in conjunction with a small bead or drift lure.

Steel-head

The steelhead is one of the most prized sportfish on the West Coast. It attains lengths to 45 inches; the Alaska record is 42 pounds, three ounces. They are distinguished from salmon by the spotting on the back and sides below the lateral line, spotting on both lobes of the caudal fin and some spotting on the anal fin. The steelhead's mouth has a distinctive white interior.

Though anadromous like the Pacific salmon, not all steelhead die after spawning. Some spawn as many as three times. They begin entering freshwater in mid-August and can be fished as long as the rivers remain ice-free, spawning March through May.

The Lower Peninsula steelhead fishery is catch-and-release only, and bait is not allowed after Sept. 1. They take a variety of tackle, with the most common method drifting small Okie Drifters and Spin-N-Glos. The Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik Rivers are highly productive steelhead streams.

Dolly Varden

Dollies reach lengths to 36 inches and a 20-pound, 12.5-ounce fish has the Alaska record. They have light spots on a dark background, and in freshwater may exhibit pale yellow spots on the back and red-to-orange spots on the sides. Commonly called a trout but more accurately a char, Dolly Varden may be taken on single salmon eggs and small lures when in the rivers. They migrate to saltwater in the early spring and can be taken off the Homer Spit as early as late April, using small spoons and spinners on light line or wet flies that resemble shrimp. In the fall they return to the rivers where they offer the angler a productive fishery. Many are taken by anglers fishing for steelhead.

Irish Lord

Even if you have no luck catching a salmon, you can always go out and catch an Irish lord. It doesn't matter what bait you use, since just about anything works when fished on or near the bottom. Baits include herring and shrimp, but spoons, spinners, banana peels, cigar butts, bologna sandwiches and potato salad will probably work if you can keep them on the hook. Irish Lords can be recognized as "ugly with a big mouth and bulging eyes." If you catch something matching that description, you've no doubt got one.

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