As you travel south along the Kenai Peninsula, you will drive through the small town of Ninilichik. There will be fairly large boats parked along the highway with large racks to hold fish. Further on a ways you will see a cannery followed by a road leading off to the left with a sign that says ‘Boat Launch’.
This is the Deep Creek boat launch where large tractors hook to the boat trailers to launch the boats off the beach into the salt water of the Cook Inlet. From here, the boats will travel 20 to 30 miles down the Cook Inlet to the fabulous fishing grounds for Halibut. At the end of the fishing trip, the tractors will again hook to the boat trailer and back it into the water of the Cook Inlet to recapture the boat for the trip back to Ninilichik.
Once to the fishing grounds the fun begins. Fishing on the ocean bottom with heavy weights, the Halibut will take the herring bait and start swimming away. Then begins the fight of pulling the flat fish to the surface of the water. The fishing grounds in these waters generally run from 100 to 250 feet deep.
After a lengthy fight, you are reward with a nice fish. The boat captain or his mate will gaff the Halibut and stow it away in the hold until the trip is over. He will bait your hook again and then it is another wait until the next one decides your bait is the most interesting of those others from the boat. And the fun begins again.
So after everyone on board has had their fun and gotten their limit of two Halibut, the boat returns to shore, is pulled from the ocean by the tractor again and you get to hang your fish along with the other on a rack so every one can take a picture of them. The guide cleans your fish and packages them so you can take them home for future delicious dinners.
Or you can drive further south to the tip of the peninsula and out on the Homer spit where the Halibut boats are already launched and are waiting for you in the harbor. Most of the boats in Homer hold six fishermen and travel out around the tip of Kachemak Bay for the big Halibut. Here you will fish in 300 to 500 feet of water where the big ones lay.
Out there it is not unusual to catch a big one upwards of 150 pounds during the trip. On one trip we caught 12 fish totaling over 1100 pounds. Five fish were over 110 pounds with the largest weighing in at 120. However, we were fishing in 530 feet of water and had sore muscles for several days. Nobody complained about it though.
There is always the chance for the really big one though. Homer has a Halibut Derby every year with fishermen buying tickets for the biggest fish caught. It is not uncommon for the largest fish of the year to weigh over 300 pounds with a payoff sometimes as high as $35,000. This particular fish was 84 inches long and weighed 349 pounds. Unfortunately the fisherman that caught it didn’t buy a Derby ticket. By the way, this one wouldn’t fit on the rack!
Learn more on our halibut fishing suggestions page.