CRANKIN’ UP A BARN DOOR
Halibut are available in Alaska waters year round. But this time of year is when they start migrating from deeper offshore waters to more coastal areas to feed. Cook Inlet, off the Kenai Peninsula, is one of several popular areas to fish for halibut with many “barn door” sized halibut harvested each year by sports fishermen and women.
Throughout our 16-year production of “North to Alaska,” Audrey and I have fished for halibut from Southeast Alaska to the Aleutians to the South central region. But we’ve only experienced a beach boat launch when fishing Cook Inlet waters. I’ve been a fan of heavy equipment all my life. But the tractor-assisted beach launch is something I’d never experienced until fishing Cook Inlet. It’s one of those unique “only in Alaska” experiences.
Fortunately, on this day, we had calm surf and our launch was uneventful. Others have been a little dicey when timing the launch between sets of breaking waves. But the boat launch crew and boat captains who launch here everyday during the Alaska summer know the ropes and maintain safe practices.
After pulling a giant-sized skate up from approximately 300 feet down, the big mama showed up. There’s no secret to the work involved in pulling up a big halibut from deep water. Factor in Cook Inlet’s often-fast currents and you’ve got a real chore on your hands! The real test is not losing your patience. Landing one of these beasts from deep water can take 20-40 minutes or more. You’ll feel the burn in your arms, back and legs – pump, reel, breathe, pump, reel and breathe.
This was a good size halibut. Bringing a live fish of this size on deck can be dangerous so Capt. Scott Vanderlooven, first, harpooned the fish, shot it with a 410 shotgun and brought it on board. Shooting big halibut is a common practice and prevents possible injuries on deck. Fishing and hunting…. a great day!
And then, the best part – packing fresh, wild-caught, Alaskan halibut in the freezer and knowing there’s a large plate of grilled halibut somewhere in my future.
Watch for video later this week…..