Discover the Largest Halibut Ever Caught in Alaska

Halibut caught by a fishing line
© Jon C. Beverly/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Hollohan

Updated: October 27, 2023

Share on:

Advertisement


Fishermen flock to Alaska for the opportunity to catch their dream fish. Many charter companies happily wait for the anglers to arrive every year. And while many think about the delicious salmon that populates Alaskan waters, another highly sought-after fish also calls to fishermen. That fish is the halibut.

In 2003, a Seattle fisherman was fishing off the coast of St. Paul Island, which sits in the Bering Sea, when he snagged the largest halibut ever caught in Alaska.

Those hitting the water in search of their prize (and dinner) hope they catch one of the famed sea creatures. But, if you want to head out for halibut fishing in Alaska, how much room do you need to make in your freezer at home?

Keep reading to discover more about halibut, including details about the largest halibut caught in Alaska.

arctic

Whales may be the largest creatures in the Alaskan waters, but many native fish are impressively large too.

©Maridav/Shutterstock.com

Halibut in Alaska

The Pacific Ocean bordering Alaska is teeming with life. One of the animals calling the body of water home is the Pacific Halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis). This fish belongs to the Pleuronectidae family and is also the biggest flatfish within the family. As a flatfish, the Pacific halibut swims sideways and is flat laterally. 

Most halibut have both eyes situated on their upper body, which is darker. This portion of the halibut’s body has spots to help the darker coloring blend into the sandy bottom. The side of the halibut that faces the ocean bottom is typically white. The fins have slightly unusual placements, just like the eyes. Its dorsal fin runs from the tail up to the eyes. And the anal fin runs a similar length on the other side. Its small scales sink slightly into the outer skin, making them nearly invisible. The broad tail does not have a fork, but it is symmetrical. 

These large fish can grow up to roughly 8 feet in length. And the largest halibut ever reported weighed more than 500 pounds. However, halibut are typically around 200-300 pounds. They live a long, healthy life when not caught by fishermen, reaching up to 55 years old. 

Additionally, the Pacific halibut has a broad habitat range. They swim as far west as the Sea of Japan, north to the Bering Sea, and south to California. Halibut primarily hang out on or near the ocean floor. However, there is no particular ocean depth they stick to. Some Pacific halibut have been seen as deep as 3.600 feet. Most, though, live between 1,000 and 20 feet deep. Their preferred temperature is 37-46º F. 

The diet of Pacific halibut varies depending on where they are in their development stage. Younger fish feast on plankton. As they grow, their food choices also mature. Halibut from 1-3 years old eat small fish and crustaceans. Then, once fully grown, they eat almost exclusively fish like cod, smelt, herring, sablefish, rockfish, and pollock. From time to time, they also don’t hesitate to eat clams, crabs, or octopus.

Halibut on a fishing line

Pacific halibut can grow up to around 500 pounds.

©Israel Patterson/Shutterstock.com

What Is the Largest Halibut Caught in Alaska?

In 2003, a Seattle fisherman snagged the largest halibut ever caught in Alaska. He was fishing off the coast of St. Paul Island, which sits in the Bering Sea. The halibut caught weighed 533 pounds and was 8 feet 2 inches long. 

Despite the size of this fish, it does not hold a place in the record books. That was because it took five crew members of the Miss Mary to get the monstrous fish on board after they hooked it. And there are no official records of the size of commercially caught halibut. 

Halibut caught by a fishing line

A commercial fisherman caught the largest halibut in Alaska.

©Jon C. Beverly/Shutterstock.com

Where Is St. Paul Island Located on a Map?

St. Paul Island is situated in the Bering Sea between the United States and Russia. It is around a 3.5-hour flight from Anchorage. The island is a little over 45 miles north of St. George Island and about 240 miles north of the Aleutian Islands.

Other Large Halibut Caught in Alaska

A fisherman named Jack McGuire caught a beast of a halibut in the port of Gustavus in 2014. McGuire was fishing off a charter boat called Icy Rose. While out on the open water, he caught a 482-pound halibut. It was also 95 inches long. However, since McGuire used unauthorized methods to kill the fish, he did not earn any records.

The fisherman shot and harpooned the monster fish, but the International Game Fish Association bans both methods. The Association manages the world record book for fishing. Additionally, the fish was so large that McGuire required help to haul it aboard the charter. That assistance is also prohibited for a world record holder. 

But the Wildlife Notebook Series kept by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game documents a 495-pound halibut caught near Petersburg. The International Pacific Halibut Commission disagrees. It suggests the largest halibut was a 500-pounder snagged in 1974. 

Halibut in an Alaskan market

Alaska is known for its enormous halibut.

©melissamn/Shutterstock.com

What Is the Largest Halibut Caught in the World?

Unfortunately, Jack McGuire could not claim the world record for his monster catch, especially since it is much larger than the largest halibut (officially) caught. The current world record holder is Jack Tragis, who also caught his Pacific halibut off the Alaskan coast. Tragis was fishing by Dutch Harbor in 1996 when he hooked his halibut. His catch weighed in at 459 pounds.

Halibut on a boat deck

The world record holder also caught his halibut in Alaska.

©Nick Kashenko/Shutterstock.com

What Commercial Fish Come From Alaska?

Sockeye Salmon in the river. Red spawning sockeye salmon in a shallow stream. Sockeye Salmon swimming and spawning. Scientific name: Oncorhynchus nerka

The most popular commercial fish in Alaska is the salmon.

©Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com

There are multiple fish that find their way to our tables straight from the waters around Alaska. The commercial fishing industry there is massive. Obviously, halibut is among the fish that are caught and sold for commercial purposes. What other fish can be added to the list of the most popular commercial fish found in Alaska?

The most popular type of commercial fish in Alaska is salmon. Below are several types of salmon.

  • Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
  • Chum (Oncorhynchus keta)
  • Coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
  • Pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)
  • Sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Other types of fish caught in Alaska for commercial consumption include:

  • Blackfish (Dallia pectoralis)
  • Burbot (Lota lota)
  • Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus)
  • Dolly Varden Char (Salvelinus malma)
  • Hagfish (Eptatretus deani)
  • Halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis)
  • Herring (Clupea pallasii)
  • Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus)
  • Walleye Pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus)
  • Yelloweye Rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus)
  • Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria)


Share this post on:
About the Author

Jennifer Hollohan is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. Jennifer has over twenty years of writing experience. She holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, which she earned in 2005, and is a Herbalist. Jennifer lives in Colorado with her family. She loves hiking, admiring wildflowers, gardening, and making herbal tea.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.