December 7, 2012
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Alaska pollock could be better bait for hooking halibut. More after this —
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Halibut scientists use more than 300-thousand pounds of chum salmon as bait when they do annual stock surveys each summer. The bait, which is procured from local ports, is staged at more than 1,200 survey stations between Oregon and the Bering Sea with the help of up 15 boats. Bait is one of the most expensive parts of the project, and increasing chum prices have pushed up the processed/frozen bait cost to nearly half a million dollars. That’s prompted a study on using less pricey fish that might work just as well – herring, pink salmon and pollock.
Cut: Last year we did a pilot scale experiment off Albatross and Fairweather looking at these four different baits. We found that herring was the worst so we dropped that, and pinks performed about the same as chum salmon. The interesting thing from that experiment was that pollock ended up having a higher catch rate for halibut above 32 inches, and it also had lower catch rates of Pacific cod and spiny dogfish, which would be bycatch in our survey. 4
Bruce Leaman is director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission which staffs the surveys. This year the pollock and pink salmon baits were tested alongside chums at every survey area. Analyses showed some mixed results –
Cut: In general, in the Gulf the pollock caught more halibut and less bycatch, but that wasn’t the case in the Bering Sea where we were testing chum salmon, pollock and pink salmon across the whole range of the stock. We didn’t see the same results everywhere.
Leaman says the results showed some clear links between bait and catches, but they aren’t consistent enough to draw good conclusions.
Cut; I think the experimental results are strong enough to calculate some linkage factors between the two different baits but we don’t feel comfortable doing so right now.
Halibut scientists will repeat the experiment next year; for now chum salmon will remain the bait of choice.Cut: There are no plans to make any bait changes for next year. We may have a recommendation for the Commission in 2014 in terms of a change to the bait but that remains to be seen.
Learn more about the halibut bait project at the IPHC website and find a link at Fish Radio on
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