Halibut is a popular choice among anglers and fish eaters alike, due to its delicious taste which is at the same time savoury and milder than in other types of fish. It inhabits the waters of the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska all the way down to California, and makes for an exemplary catch due to its considerable size and weight. While this renders the capturing experience particularly satisfying for anglers, it also entails more complex techniques and fishing tools.
Don’t let this discourage you, though, as you can easily develop the skills to outsmart your prey even if you are not a professional fisherman. All it takes is learning a set of tactics meant to ensure your success when dealing with this trophy fish. We have compiled the most effective tips for you to learn from and apply during your next fishing trip for a bountiful catch you can brag about to all your fishing buddies.
Be in the right place at the right time
Many anglers set out on fishing trips with the intention to catch halibut, but return home disappointed when their prey seems to evade all their attempts at capturing it. Scouting for just the right spot is paramount to a rewarding fishing session.
This particular species prefers to hang out in deep waters, at the bottom of the sea, where they inhabit rock formations or valleys, which obstruct the currents. A sure way to locate the best halibut holes according to this principle is by consulting your GPS. You will, therefore, need to drop your bait all the way down to the ocean floor.
Another aspect to consider when deciding where to cast your rod is that halibut feed on smaller fish, laying on the ground until they find the opportunity to ambush their prey.
One secret to maximizing your catch is by choosing the moment when the ocean tides are the most favourable. As you are fishing in saltwater, wait until the tides are relatively weak because angling in clear water makes a huge difference when fishing for halibut.
Because halibut rely heavily on sight to catch their food, clearer waters mean higher chances of catching a considerable amount of your desired prey. Although much of what renders a fishing session successful is mere chance, keeping this in mind will give you a definite boost.
Tactics to maximize your catch
More than their sense of sight, halibut use smell to detect their food when living in deeper waters. You can use this to your advantage and add an olfactory dimension to your strategy, be it by serving your prey a strong-scented bait or adding artificial scents.
To optimize your area of action find your ideal fishing point and stay put, but alternate between lowering your bait all the way to the bottom of the sea and slightly raising it in order to spread the scent around. Also, consider replacing your bait every hour or so to maintain the scent trail.
To increase the appeal of your bait to the halibut, use something that constitutes your target’s natural prey. One of the most popular choices is salmon. Anglers prefer to use salmon bellies because their strong scent is very attractive to the halibut, but also due to the thick skin in which they are covered, which makes the bait highly resistant underwater.
Another rule of thumb when fishing for halibut is that the bigger the bait, the bigger the catch. Keeping in mind their sensorial abilities, luminescence and moderate movements are effective ways to draw it in, as well.
Moving on to the climax of your angling session, once you manage to hook your prey it is vital to know how to bring it onto your fishing boat. Unlike other species, you must go gently on halibut. Once you feel it pulling, take your time reeling it in until you have the catch close to the surface of the water.
Instead of trying to fight it, the right way to go about halibut is to weaken it while keeping it in the water. Loosen up the line if you feel it pulling too hard, then start slowly bringing it up again once it has calmed down.
Some anglers prefer to wound their catch before bringing it onto their boat, in order to avoid accidents which can be caused by such a massive fish. By the way, to get the right boat, you should go through some canoe ratings and reviews. This can be done by running a harpoon through the back of the halibut’s head and waiting until it becomes too weak to flail.
What gear to use
First and foremost, you will have to adapt your fishing tools so as to match the considerable size and weight of a decent halibut. That being said, use a tough and, at the same time, slightly flexible rod which can handle the pull of a sizeable load.
Considering the depth of the water where you are most likely to fish for halibut, the reel should allow for considerable line capacity, otherwise you run the risk of being unable to reach the ocean floor which can compromise your entire session.
Choose a highly resistant reel, as the lengthy exposure to the salty environment may corrode the material. In addition to this, make sure a somewhat elastic line, which won’t snap when the catch is pulling it.
Some regulations may require that large halibut be released. For this reason, but also for practical concerns, circle hooks are the top choice among professional anglers. Because circle hooks usually hook the fish’s mouth, they are particularly suitable for catch-and-release practices, as they don’t usually injure the prey.
Although this one is not a compulsory tool, it becomes a very handy accessory when fishing for sturdy fish such as halibut. A harpoon can make the capturing a great deal easier by weakening the fish to the point where you can easily pull it out of the water and into your boat. If you choose to exploit this tactic, do bring along a pair of gloves to avoid any injuries the line may cause to your hands.