The Great Homer Alaska Pacific Halibut Hunt
As a Coloradoan, I am an experienced big game
hunter, but not an experienced big game fisherman (large trout don't count). When speaking
of big game fishing in Alaska, you're talking about halibut, not salmon. Even though king
salmon may very well reach 60 to 90 pounds in weight, halibut that size are commonplace.
In fact, halibut weighing more than 100-200 pounds, sometimes weighing up to a hefty 400
pounds, are not unusual.
Without question the "halibut fishing capital of the
world" is Homer, Alaska, located at the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula. It is a
small sport and commercial fishing community, and the home of more than 100 sportfishing
charter boats. Based on a recommendation from a colleague, I reserved a spot on the Halibut
Hunter, captained by Bruce Warner. It was later that I became aware of the captain's
enviable record of guiding fishermen on trophy halibut trips.
It was early August, about 7 a.m., and the boardwalk in front of
the docks was already buzzing with activity. This particular day we left two short of the
usual six fishermen for a full day (eight to 10 hours) at sea. Captain Bruce fit the image
I had conjured up -- a large, bearded man, but soft spoken. He indicated that our halibut trip would be 32 miles into the Cook Inlet, and off we went.
Once we reached our destination, the captain checked the G.P.S.
readings and consulted the fish finder. Satisfied we were in the right spot, he dropped
the anchor in 180 feet of water and passed out the rods.
The ocean's surface was flat, and the sight of snow-capped
volcanos of the Alaska Range in the distance, reminded me of a warm spring day in the
Colorado mountains. I was ready to fish!
We received instruction on how to handle the heavy-duty fishing
gear with 130-pound test line and a hook that was half the size of my hand. The bait we
used was herring, octopus and salmon heads. As we dropped our lines in the water, the
captain instructed to us hold the equipment tightly. When the fish strike, they take off
It wasn't long before the halibut started biting. we cranked up
several small fish right away -- 15-20 pound class -- which Bruce promptly released. We
wanted "keepers" for our halibut trip.
I will never forget the big bite! I had just dropped my bait in
the water, and almost immediately could feel a halibut playing with it when it just took
I gripped the rod with all my might when the halibut went under
the boat. Bruce took the rod from me and followed the fish to the other side of the boat
when I then regained possession of the rig. This halibut was a big one!
While I was playing the line, Bruce asked if I had entered the
halibut derby. Unfortunately I hadn't, especially as I discovered that the fish I had on
the end of my line could be worth $30,000. Oh well, I couldn't dwell on that thought! I
had a fight on my hands, and as the sweat poured off me (yes, in Alaska), I kept wondering
if I would ever land this fish.
Twenty-five minutes later, I could see the halibut in the clear
waters. It was huge!
As the big fish came to the surface the captain readied the
harpoon reserved for fish this size. It's a critical time when the fish comes near the
boat, because timing is of the essence when harpooning a moving target in the water. As
the harpoon pierces the fish it is secured to the boat with a rope. Capt. Bruce drove the
harpoon "home" and maneuvered into position to hoist the giant fish onto the
back of the boat. The halibut was well over 150 pounds.
This scenario was repeated several times that day. The smaller
halibut (under 100 pounds) were gaffed, rather than harpooned. By 3 p.m., we had reached
our limit, with the average weight of our fish being more than 100
On our way back to the dock, we radioed ahead for extra help to
unload our heavy catch. It didn't take long for a large crowd to gather around when Bruce
hung our catch outside the charter office.
day wasn't over yet, as the captain still had to
fillet the fish. After filleting, we had our fish
vacuum-packed and flash-frozen at a nearby processing
plant for the trip home. I think there is no better
quality fish than halibut, and at twenty dollars a pound at home, the halibut trip fare was quite a deal!
Halibut season in Homer runs from late May through the month of
August. Advance reservations are advised, and for a truly big game fishing experience with
an outstanding professional guide, I highly recommend that you take a Halibut fishing charter trip with Alaska Fantastic Fishing Charters CALL 800-478-7777.
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Capt. Bruce Warner on his Alaska halibut fishing charter
boat the Halibut Hunter in Homer, Alaska
The F/V Halibut Hunter in the Homer, Alaska
Alaska halibut fishing was a rewarding experience for
Dennis Macy of Colorado, here with the day's catch
715 lb TOTAL CATCH!
divided by 50 percent
= 350 lbs boneless fillets
X $20 dollars per pound
= $7,000.00 store value
successful "Halibut Hunt" in Homer, Alaska. Three
fish averaged 226 lb each.
at the end of a great day of Alaska halibut
fishing on the Halibut Hunter in Homer, Alaska
Someday they'll lay me away cause I'm stinkin'
When I hear the gravel rattle on the lid
of my coffin,
I don't want to be layin' there thinkin'
That I should have GONE FISHIN' more often!
Capt. Bruce Warner