Halibut are the biggest fish you can target out of Ketchikan. Regularly topping 200 pounds and maxing out at over twice that, these are real heavy-tackle titans. A great thing about targeting them here is that, unlike in most places, the best Halibut fishing Ketchikan has access to is pretty close to shore. The local inlet and sounds are so deep that long treks offshore aren’t necessary.
And that’s a good thing, too! Halibut can be found well over 2,000 feet down. Not that they really mind coming up to the surface. Like all flatfish, Halibut don’t have a swim bladder, so they can be safely hauled up and return to the deep without causing them any serious harm.
What to expect from a Halibut Charter
Where you fish will depend on the weather here in Ketchikan. The deepest spots are out in the Clarence Strait, but these exposed waters get too rough at times, and you’ll need to fish more protected areas. There are plenty to choose from, though, even local spots like Thorne’s Arm are more than deep enough to hold huge Halibut, and are calm enough to fish whatever the weather. Most Ketchikan Halibut fishing charters last around six-eight hours. You don’t need much more than that to bag big fish, as long as you bring the right equipment.
Halibut hunt mainly by scent, so the first thing to do is drop chum down with the anchor to wake the fish up and draw them close. Herring and Salmon are both great baits, and it’s good to use some of both to cater to whatever the fish fancy on the day. If you’re after a real monster, some local anglers like to use whole Salmon heads as baits. These will be too big for most fish to go for, so throwing one down alongside your regular baits can improve your chances of hooking a beast.
Of course, just because they hunt by scent doesn’t mean they’re blind. Jigging for Halibut is hugely effective, especially if you add a small strip of bait to the jig to guide them in. Whatever technique you use, you’ll need some serious heavy tackle. Charters use 50 to 100-pound braided line, with heavy monofilament leaders and extra-large, extra-sharp circle hooks.
Need to know
You need a saltwater fishing license to enjoy the area’s awesome Halibut fishing. Buy these online or from approved vendors locally. Many charter guides prefer to release large females in order to preserve the future of the fishery. You should always discuss what happens to trophy fish before the trip starts. Halibut are closed for harvest for the month of January, but you’ll have much more fun and much more success fishing for them in summer, anyway.