Pacific Halibut are one of the most sought-after fish in Alaska. Growing to sizes exceeding 500 pounds, they are tenacious fighters and make excellent table fare. Catching halibut is not difficult; the challenge is in locating suitable habitat. Of course in charter fishing, you rely on the experience of your crew to do that for you. If you're on your own, study your charts to locate gravel or muddy bottom that is relatively flat. During the months of July and August, you can find fish within a mile or less of shore, especially off the mouths of salmon streams, where they await the outflow of spawned-out salmon carcasses and the baitfish that feed on them.
The lingcod (ophiodon elongatus), neither a ling or a cod, is an utterly fearless fish. Found along rockpiles and other structure near the bottom, "lings" patrol their turf seeking something to devour. Most of the time this consists of herring, small rockfish and even small lingcod. Pretty much anything that fits inside a ling's mouth is fair game, and it's not unusual to catch a ling that has a fifteen pound coho salmon in its belly.
Pacific cod (gadus macrocephalus), also known as grey cod, are the wallflowers of the Alaska saltwater sport fishery. Known locally as "P-cod", they're often passed over in the pursuit of more glamorous species, they are frequently tossed over the side, cursed as an inconvenience, or used as bait for other species. Even Alaska's saltwater fishing regulations fail to dignify them with a mention or even a bag limit, relegating them to the "other fish" category. But cod have a couple of things going for them that anglers should note. First, they are good table fare that can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways, and second, they are readily available, often in schools numbering in the thousands. As a testimony to their food value, they are a tightly-regulated and valued commercial fishery.
There are nearly three dozen rockfish species in Alaska, but only about 1/3 of those are commonly pursued by anglers. Of these, the most common by far are black rockfish (sebastes melanops). Another popular species, the yelloweye (sebastes ruberrimus), is very susceptible to overfishing, and in recent years has seen protective measures installed in order to ensure the health of the species. Interestingly, both fish have been mis-named by anglers. Black rockfish are often mistakenly referred to as "black bass" (there are no seabass in Alaska) and yelloweye are commonly called "red snapper" (there are no red snapper in Alaska). If you're new to rockfishing, using the proper terminology on the charterboat will at least make folks think you know what you're doing!
Rainbows are probably the most common trout species taken anywhere in the world. They are used widely in stocking and enhancement projects in many areas, and are a staple of fish hatcheries all over the United States. In Alaska, we take our wild rainbow trout very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that most Alaska anglers release them to fight another day. Rarely is a rainbow kept for food, as there are plenty of other species readily available without depleting rainbow stocks. Alaska's rainbows enjoy celebrity status almost statewide.