The purpose of the setline survey is to collect standardized data used for halibut stock assessment. This information is used to study aspects of the halibut resource such as growth, distribution, biomass, age composition, sexual maturity, and relative abundance of other species. The current setline survey covers 27 regions, from the southern Oregon border to the northern Bering Sea including the Aleutian Islands. Most regions require 14 - 23 fishing days plus additional days for running, loading and offloading gear and fish, foul weather days, etc. Depending on the region, total charter duration can be expected to be 20 - 36 days.

IPHC Survey Regions - Each point represents a survey station.

IPHC Survey Regions - Each point represents a survey station. [Click on the image for a larger view]


Survey fishing is very different from commercial fishing. IPHC's goal is not to find the best spots with the most fish, but to adhere to the standards of the survey, such as location, soak-time, bait size, and gear setup. Station location is paramount and the midpoint of a set should coincide with a station's coordinates.

It sounds easier than it is. In fact, after their first IPHC charter survey season, most vessel owners tell us it was more work than they anticipated.

In a typical year, five skates are fished at each station. The stations are arranged in a grid with 10 nm between grid lines. The station locations have remained the same for over a decade. Up to four stations may be fished in a single day. Because the survey must be completed between June 1 to August 31, survey fishing trips (5 - 7 fishing days) are longer than the typical commercial trip.

Typical day of survey fishing

5 AM Set first set of day. Then run to next station and set that gear. Run to the next station and set, and so on.
10 AM The first set can be hauled after a minimum of five hours of soak time. The gear baited during haul backs throughout the day, but not set again until the following morning.
7-10 PM Depending on the weather and catch, all gear has usually been hauled by 10 PM and often by 7 PM. Most vessel should also count on a few long days hauling gear until after midnight.