In Alaska halibut over 60 lbs are all females, the producers of generations to come. When a female halibut begins to reproduce (47”, 50 lbs) she has about 500,000 eggs, but a 77” fish (250 lbs) might have 4 million eggs. Trophy-sized fish are the most prolific breeders, otherwise known as Big Old Fat Fecund Female Fish (BOFFFF’s).
Read more here: http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/12/29/icesjms.fst200.full.pdf
The number of BOFFFF’s out there isn’t included in the model used by fishery managers to estimate the size of the halibut population. That number doesn’t seem to help managers to make a better prediction of how many fish are out there, or how many fish will be out there next year. One theory is that there aren’t really enough of those fish left to make a difference.
The average size of halibut in southern Alaska has declined in recent decades. In the central Gulf of Alaska, 15-year-old females averaged 100 (net) lbs in the 1980s. In the late 2000s, a 15-year-old female halibut in the central Gulf averaged 28 pounds – a decline of 70% in 30 years. The waters of Icy Strait, Cross Sound and Glacier Bay National Park, draw sport fishermen from around the world because the fish size in that area is larger than the statewide average, according to statistics of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). In 2014 a record-breaking-sized halibut was caught in Icy Strait, measuring 95” long and weighing 482 lbs. Technicalities of playing and landing it kept this fish from supplanting the existing sport-caught record halibut.
Alaska Halibut Forever encourages fishermen to leave those giants in the water and instead target modest-sized halibut if regulations permit.
Non-guided sport fishermen can take two fish of any size in a given day, but as of 2015 guided sport fishermen may keep one fish per person per day of either 42 inches and under or 80 inches and over. Under the 2014 “Halibut Catch-Sharing Plan (CSP),” some guided sport fishermen are permitted to keep a second fish in a day, of any size. These halibut are known as Guided Angler Fish (GAF), and are possible based on Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) leased by charter operators for one year.
The reverse-slot limit necessitates that guided fishermen release their fish until they catch one of the appropriate size, raising concerns about survival of the released fish. Starting in the summer of 2015 the charter fishery will be required to consider 5-6% of their released fish as dead-loss. For more information on halibut safe release, visit: everyhalibutcounts.org.