During my last trip to Alaska, in the summer of 1995, my halibut charter captain used small chunks of cut bait and we caught small fish. Apparently it is common practice among many of the day-trippers to head out to a known “chicken hole,” load the boat with small fish and head back as soon as possible.
This time around, Captain Chris Hanna of Outer Coast Adventures (www.outercoastalaska.com) played no such games. There would be no Ned Rigging, no finesse tactics, no lame searching for merely “scorable” halibut. I was in Seward with Elite Series pro Keith Combs, who is known for his big fish approach to bass fishing, and he gave a knowing nod as the deckhand rigged up smelly fish attractors that would put any oversized glide bait to shame.
He threaded dozens of chunks onto a bendable wire, then added a circle hook at the end through the lips of a salmon which still had its face, but was missing its fillets for maximum blood-n-guts factor. From the circle hook there was another line leading to a stinger treble. The whole thing probably weighed 5 pounds, and had another few pounds of weight to get it to the bottom in 150 feet of water.
We fished smaller cut bait, too, along with some mega-10-inch grubs about as thick as a baseball bat, and while both of those produced lots of fish – including several in the 50- to 80-pound class – our bigger bites consistently came on the fish-kabob. When that drag started screaming, it was all but guaranteed that you were tethered to something big enough to swallow a cocker spaniel.