By George Krumm
Halibut rigging in Alaska often involves size 12/0 to 20/0 circle hooks fished on or near the bottom, baited with chunks of large herring, salmon parts, octopus, or other baits. Many anglers have problems getting fish hooked with circle hooks, though. As an alternative, the Reaper halibut rig employs large J-hooks from size 9/0 to 11/0.
The advantage of the Reaper halibut rigging is that the ratio of bites to hooked fish is quite a bit higher than it is when using circle hooks. If a fish bites, you’ll generally hook it. The disadvantage with using J-hook halibut rigs is that fish are sometimes hooked deep—in the esophagus or gills—so if you decide to use this halibut rigging method, you need to be committed to keeping any fish that bites is it may be hooked in a way that decreases its chances for survival. If you do plan to release a fish that’s hooked deep, the best way to do so is to cut the leader as close to the hook as possible.
To tie the Reaper halibut rigging as shown in the video, you’ll need hooks (size 9/0 to 11/0 Maruto Barbed Octopus hooks are our favorite, followed by Gamakatsu Big River Bait hooks in the same size range), heavy monofilament or fluorocarbon (we like Izorline First String or Mustad HD Fluorocarbon in 135- to 150-pound-test), appropriate size aluminum crimps (we like Izorline Premium Aluminum Sleeves in the appropriate size), two size 6 glow Corkies, a Wally Whale Scent Tube, a 7.5-inch P-Line Sunrise Squid in glow, Hi Seas Glow Thimbles, and a good set of crimpers (P-Line Stainless 10” Heavy Duty Crimper is a good one).
The halibut rigging shown in the video uses a single hook. We sometimes tie the Reaper with two size 9/0 hooks and eliminate the Scent Tube so the rig isn’t too long. To tie it with two hooks, crimp the first hook as shown in the video, then tie the second hook above the crimp using a snell knot or a bumper knot (AKA egg loop knot). These knots are very difficult to tie using 150-pound-test or higher, so we usually tie two-hook Reapers with 135-pound-test line.
If you struggle hooking halibut with circle hooks, give the Reaper halibut rigging a try and we guarantee you’ll hook more fish.