The Halibut is the largest flat fish, averaging 24–30 lbs, but catches as large as 734 lbs have been reported; the largest recently recorded was 470 lbs and 8.2 feet long. They are Brown on the top side with an off-white underbelly, however colors can vary slightly depending on location. Halibut live at depths ranging from a few feet to over a thousand feet, and although they spend most of their time near the bottom, halibut may move up in the water column to feed. The North Pacific commercial halibut fishery dates to the late 19th century and today is one of the region’s largest and most lucrative.
Halibut Fishing Locations
The North Pacific commercial Halibut fishery dates to the late 19th century and today is one of the region’s largest and most lucrative. Careful international management is necessary, because the species occupies waters of the United States, Canada, Russia, and possibly Japan (where the species is known to the Japanese as Ohyo), and matures slowly. The North American Pacific Halibut fishery was started many centuries ago by the various indigenous peoples inhabiting the northwestern coastline of North America.
Halibut Fishing Techniques
The “standard” Halibut rod is a short, heavy action rod of between 5-6 feet in length. Some people do use longer rods, but in my opinion, it’s much more convenient to use a shorter rod on the boat. A large capacity saltwater reel is a must. Most people fish for halibut with anywhere from 60 to 120 pound Dacron line. Pre-tied “Halibut leaders”, with single hooks on either wire or mono, are available at local department and sporting goods stores. Some people use a sliding weight on their main line. This may have advantages, but I haven’t experimented with it.
Of all the tackle available, I’d recommend herring on leadered hooks with enough weight to keep it on the bottom. Circle hooks are the norm for halibut. A fish that is hooked will not get itself off of a circle hook. It’s harder for you to unhook them too. If you find yourself releasing a lot of fish and having a busy day, consider using j-hooks, or crimping down the barbs on a set of your hooks. The main line is normally tied onto a 3-4 foot coated 120 lb. wire leader. This leader is then attached to the top 3-way swivel of the terminal tackle. Hooking a halibut sometimes feels like you’ve snagged something. Sometimes they don’t move or fight or even try to swim back down to the bottom at all. It’s just a matter of hauling the fish up to the surface.
To get back to “fishing techniques”… put on your herring and your weight, and drop the rig over the side. Release your drag, and let it fall to the bottom. The idea is to get your bait down on the bottom, and to keep your line tight enough that you feel the bites. If you can get the weight to gently raise and lower, tapping the bottom, you know that your line is tight enough and that the bait is on the bottom. Wait for the bite, set the hook and haul it up.
Halibut Flavor And Cooking
Both delicious and healthy, Halibut is an excellent source of vitamins B6 and B12. It has been an important food source to Native Americans and Canadian First Nations for thousands of years and continue to be a key element to many coastal subsistence economies. Almost all Halibut available on the East coast of the United States are from the Pacific. Halibut are typically broiled, deep-fried or lightly grilled while fresh. Smoking is more difficult with halibut meat than it is with salmon, due to its ultra-low fat content. Eaten fresh, the meat has a very ‘clean’ taste and requires little seasoning. Halibut is also noted for its very dense and firm texture, akin to chicken. Ask your Halibut fishing guide or Halibut fishing charter captain for their favorite recipe and they will usually be happy to share one with you.
Alaska Halibut Fishing
Pacific Halibut are the heavyweights of Alaska’s offshore waters. The halibut is dark brown or dirty brown with irregular blotches on the top side. The bottom side is bright or dirty white. The Pacific halibut’s body is elongated in shape, when compared to other members of the flounder family, with its width at about one third its length. The scales are small. The mouth is small, with well-developed teeth on both sides of the jaw. Both eyes are on the top (brown) side. The flesh is white, tasty, and well worth the time and effort. Halibut fishing can be a true test of an anglers abilities and stamina, so make sure you’re prepared for sore muscles after a day on the water fishing these “barn doors”, as they are often referred to in Alaska.