Gutting the halibut catch

Catches of Alaska halibut are starting to pick up after wild weather got the fishery off to a slow start after the March 11 opener. Less than half a million pounds have been landed through Tuesday by 82 deliveries, with Sitka leading all ports, followed by Seward and Kodiak.

Just seven boats had delivered about 36-thousand pounds of halibut at Kodiak through Tuesday; 52-thousand pounds crossed the docks at Seward from eight landings, and nearly 65-thousand pounds at Sitka from 15 boats. Landings at other Alaska ports weren’t available because they were too few yet to record.

The prized fish are getting big prices, up 30 cents a pound compared to the start of the season last year.

Halibut prices usually are broken into three weight categories. Kodiak prices were said to be fluctuating quite a bit with reports at $6.45 a pound for 10 to 20 pounders; $6.75 for 20 to 40’s and $7.00 a pound for “40 ups.”  Ports at Juneau and Homer were reporting a straight $7 and halibut deliveries in Southeast were fetching $6.70, $6.90 and $7 per pound.

Buyers weren’t beating down the doors, said several major buyers, and there are reports of halibut holdovers in cold storage. It remains to be seen if the prices will remain so high throughout the eight month season.  

The best fish story comes from Southeast where halibut fishing is said to be going great and the fish are robust and big. One major buyer said nearly half of their halibut landings were in the most popular 20 to 40 pound weight class and just 31% were smaller sizes.

Nearly 2,000 hook and line fishermen hold quota shares of Alaska halibut.  Alaska’s share of the coast wide catch is just over 18 million pounds. The Pacific halibut fishery remains open this year through November 7.