A few years back Shari started long-lining for halibut, something I picked up from her when I returned in 2006. Long-lining by hand is quite a bit different from traditional sport fishing. It’s pretty basic – no need for fancy rods and reels, yard upon yard of pricey 80-pound test Dacron or Spectra, or the very-expensive-after-you’ve-lost-several bullet head jigs and tails. No, the long-lining gear consists of a hundred or so yards of sinking line (already had this), a bunch of gangions, circle hooks and snap gear (all recovered while diving), some heavy weights to hold the line on the bottom (also recovered while diving) and more line and buoys (found on the beach) to mark the spot. Cheap, eh? Did I mention it’s also easy? Drive the boat to your location of choice. Lay out the ground line – this is easier if you have two people in the boat but not really that difficult if you’re on your own. Snap baited hooks on the ground line every few yards. Mark one end with a buoy or two at the surface. Drive the boat to a nearby beach for some beach-combing, or maybe just drift around in the bay and watch some whales. Come back an hour later and pull up your line. Halibut are not guaranteed but we’ve had surprisingly good success, rarely coming home without some fresh fish.
I like the tempo of hauling the line in hand over hand, much the way I enjoy pulling crab pots. It’s totally different from sport fishing, and the act of “hunting” seems more personal this way than it does with a rod and reel. I can usually feel a ‘but on the line long before I see it – it’s hard to describe but even a small one has a mass and style of movement that’s different from cod, rockfish or sculpins. You don’t have to fight even a big fish, you just keep hauling hand over hand and eventually you’ll see the big white flash a few feet below the boat and then she’ll be there on the surface and you need to decide whether to keep her or let her go to live and breed another day. It’s easy to get caught up in the rhythm of the moment fishing like this. The other day I was hauling the line, coiling it as I went so as not to have a snarled mess later, concentrating on nothing but the hand over hand, hand over hand, coil around the tub, do it again action. It was quiet – no whirring reels or taut, singing lines, just birds calling and the occasional slap of a small wave against the boat. Very peaceful. Even the 50-pound halibut that I kept just slipped easily over the gunwale and lay still, without any of the usual noisy tail-thumping. Just me and the dog, the endless hauling and coiling, and the fish.