Southeast Alaska Fishing: How To Hook A Halibut, Circle Hooks & J-Hooks

As you visit and fish from Green Rocks Lodge (self-guided facility) near Petersburg in southeast Alaska you will be supplied with fishing gear. Most guests seek to target the mighty halibut that swim in the nearby waters. Standard issue with the boat rods are some hefty 12/0 to 16/0 circle hooks. These are attached to gangion leaders that are part of the weighted spreader bar rig. These hooks are to be baited with the herring, salmon strips, or squid that is supplied by the lodge.

How To Fish A Circle Hook Rig

The weighted rigs are then lowered to the bottom and then reeled up a few cranks to keep the crabs from getting to the bait. Circle hooks require the angler to wait a little while after getting a bite before attempting to reel in the halibut. Patience is required to allow the halibut to fully engulf the baited hook and swim away.

Circle Hook History In Use

A bit of history with how the use of the circle hook was developed will help to better explain how they work and how the Green Rocks Lodge fishermen should make the best use of them. Circle hooks were developed by longline commercial halibut fishermen in Alaska. A longline is a rope that is festooned with baited circle hooks on gangion leaders that are attached to the rope every 10 feet or so. A longline is often set with hundreds of baited hooks and then lowered to the bottom. The longline is anchored at both ends and stretched out across the targeted halibut grounds. The anchors have float markers. This allows the tending boat to return after the baited line has been allowed to sit idle for a few hours.

Halibut Circle Hook

The longline is then retrieved by a motorized winch. Halibut will have come to the baited hooks and eaten them. As they went to swim away the line attached to the hook will run to the corner of the fish’s mouth. Then as the fish proceeds to swim away the circle hook will eventually engage itself in the corner of the fish’s mouth. In effect, the halibut will hook itself simply by swimming away from the set line. The circle hook is very effective at keeping the halibut hooked permanently once it is set in the corner of the fish’s mouth.

Don’t “Set The Hook” With A Circle Hook

The key feature that the Green Rocks Lodge guest, targeting halibut with circle hooks, must keep in mind is that they must not attempt to set the hook. Hook-setting action by the angler is should only be done when they are using J-hooks, not circle hooks. So the circle hook halibut angler must patiently wait for the halibut to swim off with the baited hook. The reel can be engaged (locked down) with the rod held high as the halibut begins to eat on the bait. Allow the halibut to swim off until the rod tip is pulled beneath the surface of the water. Wait until you feel the halibut pounding as it attempts to swim away. It will hook itself. Then you can start the fun in trying to crank up a hefty circle-hooked halibut.

J-Hook Jigs Are Effective For Halibut

Another fun way to catch halibut involves the use of weighted jigs, specially designed to target these big fish. Jigs typically in the size range of 7 to 20 ounces can be baited with herring, salmon, or squid. These weighted jigs have big J-hooks. The baited jig is then lowered near the bottom and bounced up and down periodically to attract a halibut. Upon feeling the sharp tug of a halibut attacking the jig the angler must give a sharp upward tug in order to set the hook. Note how this is different than using a circle hook. Once hooked the line must be kept taut in order to keep the J-hook engaged in the fish’s mouth.

7 oz. Fire Eye Glow Jig

So which hook do you use to catch a halibut? The answer is left to the Green Rocks angler to decide upon. I’ve caught halibut using both style of hooks. And I’ve caught big halibut (over 100 lbs) using both style hooks. The biggest halibut I’ve ever seen caught in a boat that I was party to was a 197 lb monster fish. It was caught on a 7 oz. Fire Eye Glow Jig. That jig is a favorite of mine to use when I target halibut these days. If the current gets running too hard for a 7 oz. jig then I switch to a 16 oz “Pounder Fire Eye jig”. Contact Green Rocks Lodge to see if they carry these jigs prior to your arrival there. They can be purchased online if need be.

Circle Hook or J-Hook? The Choice is Yours

Green Rocks Lodge certainly has you covered if you desire to fish with a circle hook rig or J-hook jig. Just remember, you don’t set a circle hook! If you’re using a J-hook jig then set that hook hard into that barn door halibut