Catches of Alaska halibut have picked up after wild weather got the fishery off to a slow start when it opened on March 11. Catches by Friday topped 800,000 pounds from 137 landings with Sitka leading all ports, followed by Seward, Kodiak and Homer.

The prized flats were fetching big prices, up 30 cents a pound on average, compared to the early weeks of the fishery 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 per pound, and halibut deliveries in Southeast were paying fishermen $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 as high throughout the eight-month season.

The best fish story comes from Southeast where halibut fishing is said to be “fantastic” 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 this year is just over 18 million pounds. The Pacific halibut fishery remains open this year through November 7.

Laine Welch is an independent Kodiak, Alaska-based fisheries journalist. Click here to send her an email.

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