Mushy Halibut Syndrome Causes Fishing Frustration
First there were restrictions on king salmon, now there is a problem with halibut
ANCHORAGE - It’s a frustrating time to be a fisherman in Alaska. First there were restrictions on king salmon, now there is a problem with halibut.
The concern is over a condition that is being called "mushy halibut syndrome." State Fish and Game officials said they are seeing more of the problem in Cook Inlet, especially in the waters off Ninilchik and Homer. Lab tests indicate the problem is a form of malnutrition – not a parasite or disease.
“It’s not a disease that is going to be contagious or hurt people if they eat the fish,” said Sportfish spokesperson Ken Marsh. “But the fish aren’t very pleasant to eat. They don’t firm up, even when you put them in the oven.”
Halibut with the syndrome tend to have flesh that is gelatinous, soft and flabby. They may seem more lethargic after being caught and can even look wrinkly. Biologists said the best advice for people who suspect they have a fish that isn’t healthy, is to throw it back.
“If it doesn’t seem to be a healthy robust halibut, if it seems mushy or flabby, go ahead and let it go and catch yourself a healthy one. It’s not like every other fish has this, maybe one in ten, maybe one in twenty. The next fish you catch is probably going to be a good one,” said Marsh.
Marsh said the condition is a cycle and seems to run in pockets. Moving even a half-mile away from a spot where a bad fish was caught will likely have better results. Marsh said so far the problem has been confined to smaller fish and that no commercially caught halibut have been reported as having the condition.