Managing Your Halibut Catch Under the New Rules

Any recreational or non-guided fisherman who has fished for Pacific halibut in Southeast Alaska this last several years knows that there has been increased enforcement of the IPHA rules for processing your catch. I have had to alter my whole approach to halibut fishing this season and last season. I have spoken to skippers who brought their boats up from Puget Sound for the summer and who had expected to take frozen halibut home with them. You can no longer do this. Boats are being boarded by Alaska Fish and Game, Alaska State Police, the International Halibut Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard–all charged with the same enforcement. Get caught and they take your fish and leave you with a hefty, and I mean hefty, fine. It can be thousands of dollars.

You must follow the adopted management measures for NOAA halibut sport fishing that stipulate how your catch is fileted, regarding size of filets and skin on, and to not retain processed fish on board if you have fishing tackle on your vessel. And who doesn’t. So what can be done and still end up with properly processed, vacuum packed fish?

When I set my itinerary, especially when it may be several hundred miles around SE Alaska waters, I now plan what days and where I will fish for halibut. If I do not limit out the first day, I remove the heads and entrails and ice my fish. After a second attempt to catch limits I dock at a community with seaplane service back to Juneau. I do my usual processing and put the catch on a flight as air cargo. The cost can vary from $0.80 to $1.00 per pound.  I then contact my pre-arranged pickup who receives my boxes or packed coolers and puts them into frozen storage for me. I have used Alaska Seaplanes who a frozen storage facility in Juneau. I have also used Jerry’s Meats but someone has to deliver your boxes. There is a business in the town of Gustavus near the entrance to Glacier Bay that will not only process your catch but put it on a flight somewhere.

You can still enjoy all of the scenery as well as the excitement of Alaska halibut fishing. Just don’t ignore the rules as it can lead to truly spoiling a wonderful time in Southeast Alaska.

About Fred Cooper

Alaska resident at the time of statehood and returns annually; professional civil engineer and for 35 years owner of an engineering company; skipper of the Nordic Quest; author, avid fisherman and world traveler. Lives with his wife and their water-loving standard schnauzer in Portland, Oregon.
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