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Alaska's favorite flatfish can fill a boat -- and freezer -- quickly
The name "halibut" is derived from the Middle English "haly-butte," meaning the flatfish to be eaten on holy days. And Alaskans do revere the halibut.
The halibut taken by anglers usually weigh 15 to 20 pounds (described as "chickens"), but 150-pounders are often caught.
Like other bottom-dwelling flatfish, halibut have both eyes on "top." Actually, the left eye migrates to the right side in the first few months of the halibut's life.
Halibut are important to commercial and sport anglers from the Inside Passage to the Kenai Peninsula to the Aleutians.
The state record for a fish caught by a sport angler is 459 pounds. Jack Tragis caught it in 1996 in Unalaska Bay.
The largest halibut ever caught by any means in the northern Pacific is a 495-pounder landed near Petersburg, Alaska.
Although some anglers catch smaller halibut with light gear and jigs while fishing for middepth species, most charter boat halibut are taken near the bottom with heavy gear. A lead sinker weighing a pound or more takes the curved hook and chunk of salmon or halibut down. Rods are short and stiff, and playing the fish is often an exercise similar to pulling a sheet of plywood up through 100 or more feet of seawater.
Sources of information include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.