Halibut fishing at Yakutat Lodge is spectacular.
Fish are usually caught within 10 miles of the boat dock at the Cabins on the Bay. Ocean conditions are usually pretty mild, with 2- to 4-foot waves the norm, and halibut can usually be found in 100- to 200 feet of water. All of these parameters put Yakutat near the top of the list of halibut fishing destinations in the Greatland.
Halibut are apex predators and find food using smell, sight and hearing. In a typical halibut fishing day, captains will anchor up a few hours before a tide change and set out a scent trail. Some anglers will fish with bait, while others will bang jigs off the ocean floor. This combination hits the sight, sound and smell criteria that attract halibut. In Yakutat, a typical halibut weighs about 30 pounds, but there are far larger specimens available.
Halibut captains typically use circle hooks on heavy leaders, weighted to the ocean floor using a few pounds of lead. When a halibut comes and chews on the bait, anglers are instructed to wait until the rod bends before reeling. This is because a circle hook is not meant to be set like a J-hook, and when a halibut pulls on the bait, applying pressure allows the circle hook to gain purchase in the corner of a halibut’s mouth. Once a halibut is hooked on a circle hook, they usually stay connected until released at the surface.
The other way that anglers catch halibut is to jig. This hands-on technique requires an angler to rhythmically bounce a lead head or other type of metal jig off the bottom. Often times a halibut will hit the jig on the drop, so successful anglers are trained to set the hook whenever they feel anything. Once hooked, the angler must keep tension on the fish as jigs will fall out when slack enters the line. Halibut fishing with a jig is exciting and interactive, and will often leave an angler happily fatigued at the end of the day. Whichever way you catch a halibut, realize that the harder you pull, the harder they pull back, so slow and steady pressure and reeling is the way to coax these big fish to the surface.