Halibut hunt: Is that a chicken -- or a turkey?

Kevin Klott

Regular Redoubt Reporter contributor Christine Cunningham, while waiting for a tug on her line, wonders about the origin of the term "chicken" as applied to smaller halibut. It's not an "Alaska thing," she learned, nor is it even modern.

In order to get a better understanding of what was chickenlike about chicken halibut, I contacted the International Pacific Halibut Commission. A few days later, a lengthy and well-researched response was provided by biologist Steve Kaimmer via email. According to Kaimmer, the term is as old as the Pacific halibut fishery and was in use in the Atlantic halibut fishery as well. He had found the phrase in recipes and scientific literature back as far as the 1890s. A governmental report from 1900 states that, in one area of the Atlantic, halibut “are so abundant that only the smaller or ‘chicken’ halibut are taken.” And the popular Fannie Farmer and Mrs. Owen’s cookbooks from the turn of the century both reference chicken halibut as being from 2 to 10 pounds in size.

Read more at The Redoubt Reporter: Navigating a brave new world of fish terminology