By Montana Grant

Posted: August 24, 2019

Harpooning Halibut is a challenging experience! Once you have pulled the beast near the boat, the real adventure begins. In the past, I have gaffed, netted, harpooned and beached many large fish. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages. The only way to learn is to do it!

Today’s harpoons can be like the ones used for Giant Tuna. An arrowhead shaped barb can be stabbed into the fish and will not come out. The pole is connected to a rope for more control. Once the great fish is impaled, the shock and blood pressure immediately kick in. Larger harpoons used on whales worked the same way. Eventually, the giant fish would bleed enough to become calm. More modern harpoons had special loaded tips that would explode when inside the whale. These larger harpoons were also launched from a gun fixed onto the bow of a chase ship.

Halibut fishermen can use a gun, harpoon, or gaff to handle these massive fish. A small pistol is often used to shoot the Big Butts in the head. A 22 caliber or a 38 will do the trick. Just don’t hit the boat.

A gaff is good for controlling a part of a Big Butt but may not be the only tool needed. The large spreader bar rigs used to hook these massive flukes serves as a handle to grab onto. The gaff provides a second point of contact.

Halibut harpoons are usually made with a detachable tip. This tip has a hollow base that slides onto the end of a metal pole fused into a wooden handle 5-6 feet long. The point must impale the fish and pass through for it to work. Once the point is on the opposite side of the fish, it falls free from the pole. A steel cable connects the tip to a rope. The tip is now in a T-position and connected to a rope that can be tied to a cleat. The harpoon pole is tossed into the boat and the harpooned Butt can be dragged into the boat.

The Bigger the Butt, the harder the work. Halibut can exceed 500 lbs. This means that boating a Big Butt is a team effort. On a recent trip to Alaska, my partner Tom and I, had to overcome a different challenge every time we caught a Big Butt. Teamwork, communication, and focus helped us to not lose a fish.

Harpooning took some practice. Doing it in the boat is the only way to learn. Stabbing a target on shore just won’t cut it. Just reel back and Harpoon the beast! If you fail, try again. The circle hooks make sure that the fish is hooked. Other hooks can pop free. Our first harpooning of Big Butts took several attempts. When we failed, the butts took another run. Twice we harpooned fish 3 times before the tip went through and engaged.

Aim for the exit! Go medieval and use the pole to hit and push the harpoon through. Target the base of the gills in the center of the body.

In the end, your Big Butt will end up in the boat!

Your butt will also be tired!

Montana Grant

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