How to Catch Halibut: Tips & Techniques
Catching Halibut is a very popular sport in California. In the winter months, San Francisco is one of the few places you can find Halibut on menus, but during the summer months they are available all along the coast. Many people target halibut while fishing for other species like bass or salmon.
Fishing for halibut with lures and bait takes skill and patience; if you know what to look for while fishing (for other fish) then you’ll know when you should put your lure down closer to the bottom while looking for flatfish like flounder or halibut. Remember, if it swims it has fins!
When to Catch Halibut
The best time to catch halibut varies. If you’re looking for quantity, Spring and Summer. If you’re looking for quality-sized Halibut, then winter and early spring. The best time of day to catch Halibut is at dawn or dusk, but you can catch them all day long.
Where to Catch Halibut
The best places to catch halibut are the following:
1. Off The Channel Islands – This is one of the best places to catch halibut year-round, but be sure there are some other fish for you to target, or else all your bait will be gone in no time. Fishing off Santa Barbara Island is better during the summer months because there aren’t many boats fishing off this island.
2. Deep Pinnacles – The reason these spots are good is that the water on either side of them is very deep, which keeps away most commercial fishermen who might see your line and report you. These pinnacles are also located where currents converge, meaning lots of food gets washed up onto them making more food available for Halibut to feed on.
3. Shallow Rocky Reefs – If you’re looking for a place to try that is easy to find, then look around areas with lots of small rocks. Halibut likes these areas because the small rocks make it easier for them to ambush their prey. Be extremely careful when fishing here though, as getting snagged on a rock will mean a long swim to get your gear back, if at all.
4. Edge Of A Sandbar – One of the best places to catch halibut is off an edge of a sandbar or drop off before it drops too deep. These bars are usually wavy and this means currents converge near them making food plentiful in their vicinity.
5. Engine/Prop Marks – If you think about where strong currents intersect with a fast-moving boat, then you should begin to see the potential. Halibut use currents as highways- they can move quickly and not expend a lot of energy because of them.
6. Near The Surface – Most fish feed near the surface at night and halibut is no exception so if there is a good current, chances are very good that halibut will be near it staying in those strong currents. If you find one fish, there’s usually more right behind him so keep your bait in place until another halibut takes it!
7. Around Fish Attractors – These black and yellow underwater structures attract lots of other fish and therefore attract halibut too! You just need to look around these attractors for the fish you’re looking for.
8. Crab Pots – If you’re using crab traps, put them in the same areas where halibut are already hanging out. These spots are near food sources or current convergence lines and make for great spots to catch halibut.
9. Near Docks – If you can find a dock that’s near deep water with some current moving through it, chances are excellent there will be halibut around there waiting for an easy meal! Don’t forget to bring a net if your bait is small enough to fit through the cracks on the pylons of the dock though!
10. Kelp Pads And Groves – Halibut love kelp pads and groves because they create places where many small food sources converge. These groves also create areas with lots of cool shade and that means cooler water which halibut like even more!
11. Near Current Eddies – Current eddies are like whirlpools: they’re areas of fast-moving water that’s swirling around instead of moving in a single direction. If you find one, cast your line into it and chances are good you’ll hook up with a nice sized Halibut!
12. Near Flotsam And Jetsam – You can’t always go out to sea to look for flotsam and jetsam because the water might be too rough but if conditions permit, this is an excellent place to fish for Halibut. They use these things as ambush points because the flotsam and jetsam make them hard to see from other fish far away.
13. In Front Of A Canyon – Chances are good that a canyon will have halibut in front of it because this is where currents converge, making lots of food available to these bottom dwellers! If you find one, don’t go directly over the top but try a spot just little ways in front of it!
14. Near Fish Spots – These areas attract all kinds of fish and have lots of small food sources so naturally, they’re going to attract halibut too! Just remember that these spots can be crowded sometimes so if you get there at the wrong time, you might need some luck to catch a halibut.
15. Near The Surf – If you want to be near the surf when you decide to fish for halibut, make sure there’s plenty of kelp for cover and that the bottom is rocky or sandy. Smaller rocks work well too! You can also combine this with whiting or other small baitfish if it’s an area teeming with them!
16. South Of A Ledge – Halibut tend to hang south of ledges because that’s where lots of food converge due to powerful currents in that area It might take a lot of patience but if you’ve got some time on your hands, try fishing south from a ledge and see what happens!
17. In The Vicinity Of A Reef – One benefit of having reefs around is that they attract lots of food for all kinds of fish including halibut. So naturally, wherever there’s a reef nearby, you should be able to catch halibut as well as many other types of fish!
18. Near Seal Rocks And Pinnacles – Halibut hang around these places year-round because they attract a lot of food including the small fish halibut eat. You can try your luck near them or use them as a marker to find other areas where you have a good chance at catching halibut.
19. Along A Drop Off – These areas aren’t always easy to find but when you do, it’s usually worth your while! The drop-off area is part of the reef that extends downward from your position and halibut wants to be underneath this place so they’re there waiting for an easy meal.
Are Halibut Hard to Catch?
Yes! If you don’t know what you’re doing, halibut can be very hard to catch. These fish are big and strong and will make your life difficult if you don’t know how to reel them in the right way. So make sure you practice your skills with smaller kinds of fish before moving on to catching halibut!
When it comes down to it, patience is the most important skill for catching halibut because they won’t bite unless they think they can get away with eating whatever is on the end of your hook.
Techniques for Halibut
These fish are strong and they’re smart! If you’re looking for halibut, chances are good that there’s a reef nearby. Halibut prefer the rocky bottoms compared to sandy ones but if there’s no reef around, they’ll settle for what they can get.
These big boys also like hanging out near drop-offs because the currents make it easy for them to sneak up on their next meal. Below is a list of techniques used for Halibut:
1. Best Fishing Times – These fish like to stay around ledges all year round but they’re more active at night, during the morning, and late afternoon/early evening.
2. How To Use A Halibut Chart – If you want to find halibut, use a Halibut Chart to mark down where they are because these big boys can be hard to spot! After figuring out where the biggest concentrations of halibut are, try to head there but remember that they can move so your best bet is staying mobile until you catch one!
3. Keep The Rope Tight – When you’ve hooked a halibut, keep it tight between you and the fish by reeling in as many lines as possible or even drop your rod tip if necessary to keep the line tight. This will prevent the halibut from getting away and you’ll have lots of chances at catching it!
4. Watch Your Drag – When fighting with a halibut, make sure your drag is set to the appropriate level so that when the fish lunges out of the water, it doesn’t snap your line. You can also fight halibut by bringing them towards you whenever they try to swim away but this technique works best when you’re in a smaller boat or kayak because in larger vessels with bigger engines when these powerful fish lunge forward, they might pull you around which could lead to an accident!
5. Bait Selection – If there are small baitfish around, try using them as bait to catch halibut. But make sure you use the right size of the hook! Baitfish are quite small so if you’re using a big hook, it won’t be able to hold onto these little guys!
Gear for Catching Halibut
The following gear for Halibut are recommended:
1. Rope – The best rope for catching halibut is at least 30 meters (100 feet) long or more because if you hook a big one, it can go quite far! You could use up all your line without even realizing it so keep that in mind when choosing the length of your rope.
2. Fishing Rods – A fishing rod needs to be at least 12 pounds in order to land these big boys but the bigger the better. Halibut are known for being difficult so make sure you have a strong enough rod to get them on board before they get away. A recommended fishing rod length for halibut would be 7 feet long .
3. Fishing Reels – A fishing reel that can hold at least 400 yards of a 12 pound seamless line will be able to land a big halibut on a single battle short! Make sure your reel has gears in it if you want to wear out the fish because reeling in these strong guys too much could cause them to break the line.
4. Fishing Line – We recommended a minimum of 900 feet of braided fishing line for halibut because they are powerful fish and sometimes they like to make a run for it. Make sure your line is thicker than 12 pounds or you will snap the line on the initial pull. Additionally, halibut are found deep underwater so if you’re reeling in line quickly, there’s a chance it can break.
5. Terminal Tackle – The two most important pieces of terminal tackle are the hook and swivel because these are what’s going to hold everything together. Get big hooks for halibut because they already have really thick mouths so you don’t want to make it any harder on yourself by using small or medium-sized hooks. You’ll also need to attach a strong swivel at the end of your line with something like 40 pounds worth of shock absorber plus 80 pounds worth of leader.
6. Waders – If you’re fishing from shore, consider bringing waders so you can wade into deeper water. This is more important if you’re using a bigger tackle because your line will need to be stretched further out into the water. Wading also gets you closer to the fish which means better casting opportunities!
7. Life Jackets – Make sure everyone on board knows how to properly put on a life vest before bringing it along with them because these are crucial for this type of fishing where people are actually going in the water. If someone falls overboard, make sure they know how to put their life jacket back on before swimming towards the boat!
8. Cooler – Pack lots of ice plus some protein-rich snacks like tuna or salami for after the catch because it’s really important that bellies are full before trying to go back home.
9. Anchor – If you’re fishing from a boat, make sure it has an anchor because halibut like to stay deep underwater and the only way to catch them is to keep your bait down where they are.
10. Life Raft – Make sure there’s a life raft on board because these fish can fight for hours and eventually wear you out or even worse, cause an accident if you’re tired or something unexpected happens while trying to reel them in! This is why safety should always come first and that includes having a reliable flotation device just in case anything goes wrong.
11. Safety Equipment – Make sure you have all the safety equipment onboard just in case something goes wrong such as a flare gun and life jackets. Sometimes these fish fight for hours and it’s really important that everyone stays safe at all times.
12. Anchor Light – This is only necessary if you’re fishing at night, otherwise you don’t need to worry about this one. But make sure there’s always a working anchor light on any boat at night so other boats can see where your boat is and avoid collisions.
13. Waterproof Gear – Make sure everyone brings their own waterproof gear because getting wet should be expected when catching halibut since they drag people around while they’re hooked. Having dry clothes means staying warm equals happy anglers who can fish for longer periods of time.
14. GPS – Make sure the boat has a GPS just in case you lose track of your position or get separated from other boats. Sometimes strong currents can take over and these devices are really helpful when it comes to navigating back to a certain location because it works even if you don’t have an internet connection so there’s no need for cell service.
Basic Information on Halibut
Halibut, a member of the flatfish family, is found in oceans all over the world. Halibut live on or near the bottom of the ocean and are bottom feeders when young and shift to eating fish as they become larger.
The average adult halibut will weigh between 50-100 pounds (22-45 kilograms) depending on its age and species. A Pacific halibut can grow up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms), but generally only lives for around 30 years.
Halibut have two eyes located on one side of their head, which allows them to camouflage with the ocean floor as they lay flat against it looking for food. When viewed from above, this camouflaging makes them hard to see by predators that may be swimming above.
The halibut’s upper side is a dark brown color, while its lower side is white to silvery-white with shades of black or gray. It uses the darker colors on its top side to blend in with the bottom of the ocean floor when looking up from below and uses the lighter shades on its bottom side to camouflage when looking down from above.
The underside of their oddly shaped body can also have mottled spots that resemble rocks or coral giving them even more protection. Halibut do not have scales, but instead is covered with very small, embedded bony spines called prickles.
Halibut Scientific Classification:
Class: Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fishes)
Order: Pleuronectiformes (Flatfishes)
Family: Pleuronectidae (Righteye flounders)
Genus / Species: Hippoglossus hippoglossus
Authority: Linnaeus, 1758 (Some sources list morphed or oxyrhynchus as species in the genus.)
Other common names: Atlantic halibut, Californian halibut, English sole, Greenland halibut, Pacific halibut.
Common Locations: Halibut are found in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, although they do not exist naturally in the Mediterranean.
Diet: As young fish (4-6 inches long), halibut mostly eat crustaceans and other small invertebrates such as crabs and sea urchins. As they mature into adults, their diet shifts to primarily eating fish; however, small invertebrates still make up a large percentage of their diet.
Range: The Pacific halibut is found along the Pacific coast of North America from Sitka Alaska to Magdalena Bay Baja California , while the Atlantic halibut inhabits the northern Atlantic Ocean including Iceland , Greenland , Scandinavia, Russia , Canada , Alaska, and Northern Europe .
The Atlantic halibut is listed as endangered in the wild due to overfishing. Habitat: Halibut are bottom feeders, so they can be found on sandy or muddy bottoms ranging from 30-1,200 feet (9-366 meters) deep. They tend to seek out rocky reefs during breeding season.
Breeding Season: Breeding occurs year-round in warmer waters where food sources are plentiful. Mating System: Halibut are broadcast spawners meaning they release their eggs into the water without any parental care after fertilization has occurred externally.
Males may mate with multiple females so larger males have an advantage when it comes time to reproduce because larger males release more sperm than smaller ones. Halibut can reach sexual maturity at age 5-11, but most do not reproduce until they are 8-10 years old. Mature halibut have both male and female reproductive organs so they can self-fertilize if need be, however, this is rare.
Average Lifespan: 30 years (up to 50)
Average Size: 50-100 pounds (22-45 kilograms) depending on its age and species. A Pacific halibut can grow up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms).
Halibut as Food: Halibut is popularly eaten as food because it is a large, white-fleshed fish with few bones. It is very low in fat and high in protein; however, many types of halibut are becoming increasingly rare due to overfishing.
Famous Halibut Characters: None.
Interesting facts about Halibut: Halibut can change colors, making them harder to see on the ocean floor or when looking down from above. Young halibut (less than 4 inches long) mostly eat small crustaceans such as crabs and sea urchins while adults mainly feed on fish like flounder and herring.