Call us toll-free at 1-800-661-6954

Welcome to The Fishin' Hole Canada's source for tackle and sport fishing equipment. Try us for all of your sportfishing needs...In store, on-line or toll free. You'll get hooked on the service!

Chasing and Catching Halibut


I’ve been going back and forth to the coast for many years and it’s always a thrill to look down into the water and see the mottled brown diamond shape twisting and turning on my line. Halibut are sought after and with a little perseverance, they can be caught. The hardest thing about catching halibut is locating them and sometimes this requires a lengthy boat ride out into the pacific. Big halibut are often deep dwellers that make forays into the shallows to feed.

Shallow water is a relative term. When I’m speaking of shallows, I am relating it to surrounding deeper water and if things are ideal, I’m speaking of fishing the edge of the continental shelf. On this edge is where I’ve had the absolute best halibut fishing, not necessarily for numbers, but definitely for size. I’ve fished North of Prince Rupert, around Rivers Inlet and my favorite location, fishing with Wayne Ridley of Wayne Ridley’s Fishing Charters out of Winter Harbour on the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island. In spite of the massive distances between them, everyone seemed to fish halibut the same way. First, halibut primarily feed on the bottom so anchoring in a prime location is ideal. Second, depth is a consideration. While sometimes these underwater shallow shelves are less than 200 feet deep, and in one instance, we were fishing in 100 feet of water, most halibut fishing is done in that 260 to 330 foot range.

This depth just happens to coincide with the depth that the continental shelf typically drops off. Fishing on the top edge of this drop off is prime halibut territory. Once the edge has been located, it’s then a matter of watching the sounder and GPS to find a protrusion, which will act as a natural funnel to the fish. Find this and more often than not good fishing will follow. This is the spot to anchor and set up.

When it comes to fishing, the right tackle is critical. A salmon rod doesn’t cut it. Try levering up a 80 pound halibut on a whippy rod and stretchy line. It doesn’t work very well and odds are the fish will win. To bring halibut up, it takes no stretch line, a big reel and a stout rod. Halibut rods are stiff and are meant to be that way to lever big fish off the bottom. My line of choice is Berkley Tough Line. I run 80 pound Tough Line. My buddy Wayne Ridley, who guides off northern Vancouver Island, runs 100 lb Tough Line. The line has to be no stretch and a thin diameter. It means that it can get down to the bottom and, because of its ‘thinness’, it will cut the current better when the tides move in and out. This means direct contact with the bait and positive hook ups when a halibut does hit. The reel can be any reputable reel, just so long as it can handle the stress of some heavy drag. Typically the drag is set somewhere around 60 pounds. A fish has to put a lot of muscle into the fight before the reel will give up line.

On the terminal end, do not fool around. Go to bait and perhaps the most reliable bait is salmon belly. The skin on salmon belly is tough so fish can’t shred it up or pull it off the hook when biting. This little tidbit of info becomes extremely well appreciated when, after a bite, I don’t have to pick up the rod then reel a one or two pound weight 300 feet up to the surface to see if the bait is still on. The belly meat is also oily, which is very alluring to a halibut or any other fish. If salmon belly is not available, the next readily available bait is full size herring, but herring are fragile. Because of this, it requires reeling in after every good bite, which becomes a lot like work. I’ve seen octopus used as bait. Again this bait is durable, the whole problem becomes, where and how do you catch an octopus to use?

The bait is set up on a spreader bar rig and typically circle hooks are the hook of choice. The simple fact is when a fish gets hooked with a circle hook, they rarely get free. Using circle hooks comes with its own tricks. The most important has to be how to hook the fish. In the life of a circle hook, the fisherman, or fisherwoman does not set hooks. The fish sets the hook. The design of the circle hook means the hook will slide out to the corner of the halibut’s mouth and when it reached that edge, the hook will rotate and dig in, hooking the fish neatly and securely in the jaw.

The best time to catch halibut is the one to two hours before and after the tide change. On either side of the change tidal currents flow onto or off of the shelf and the fish will work the edge feeding as they go. When it’s slack tide, pull the anchor and do some salmon fishing for an hour. The halibut are not active, but conveniently the salmon will be.

When dropping baits to the bottom, often times the first fish to bite will be the red snapper. Red snappers are a good sign and I will usually pick up a few quickly.

After a brief flurry of red snapper bites the action will taper and the next bites will come from the big fish. Most often these fish will be halibut, but if I’m close to rocks, expect some monster ling cod too. Have fun.

Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Your Next Fly Rod
(2) It’s OK to Be Little Bitty
(3) Exploring Tundra Waters
(4) The Jewel at First Ice
(5) Fly Fishing Bucket List
(6) Guided or DIY?
(7) Pond Power
(8) Caddisflies
(9) In the Good Old Summertime
(10) A Southern Escape
(11) Springtime in Alberta - Can Thrill You to the Bone
(12) Sunny Day Rainbows
(13) New "Fishing" Year Resolutions
(14) Five Fine Places to Find Trout
(15) Catfishing Revisited
(16) Discover Squamish, an Outdoor Playground
(17) Falling for Cutthroat
(18) New Water and Old Friends
(19) My McLeod
(20) Temperature and Trout
(21) On the Road Again
(22) Tips That Will Make You a More Successful Fly-Fisherman
(23) 5 Ways to Catch Your Trout
(24) The Difference Maker - Reading Trout Stream Waters
(25) Rollin’ on the River
(26) Windy Day Pike
(27) Cures for Cabin Fever
(28) Snowbirding with a Fishing Rod
(29) Alberta’s Spring Creek Browns - Blessings and Curses
(30) A day on our foothill streams
(31) Fly Fishing Crowded Waters
(32) Fly Leaders
(33) In the Zone
(34) Learners Permit
(35) Flies of Summer
(36) Selecting the Right Boat
(37) The Italian Job
(38) Making a difference
(39) Pass the Salt
(40) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(41) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(42) Fall brings the big walleye out
(43) Hoppertunity Time
(44) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(45) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(46) Early Season Fly Fishing
(47) Walleye Logic
(48) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(49) Grammy’s Fish
(50) Top 10 Trout Lures
(51) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(52) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(53) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(54) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(55) There’s No Place Like Home
(56) A Golden Opportunity
(57) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(58) Un-matching the Hatch
(59) Alberta Super Bugs
(60) Glass is Back
(61) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(62) Speed Kills
(63) Entering the Twilight Zone
(64) Old Man River
(65) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(66) Small stream BT fishing
(67) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(68) In The Walleye Zone
(69) Zoo Trout
(70) Fly Selection for Beginners
(71) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(72) New Waters
(73) Big Bad Burbot
(74) Looking Back
(75) Out of Africa
(76) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(77) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(78) The Browns of Autumn
(79) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(80) Walleye Town
(81) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(82) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(83) Going With The Flow
(84) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(85) Swinging The Fences
(86) A View From The Aerie
(87) Dixieland Delight
(88) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(89) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(90) Montana's Cool Missouri
(91) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(92) Toothy Critters
(93) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(94) Top Ten Flies
(95) Northern Exposure
(96) Home Water Lessons
(97) Chicken Of The Sea
(98) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(99) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(100) Keep It Up!
(101) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(102) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the 2013 flood
(103) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(104) Hawg Holes
(105) Saltwater Salmon
(106) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(107) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(108) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(111) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(112) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(113) Fall Walleye
(114) Wet Flies
(115) Versatility the Key to Success
(116) Grayling of the Boreal
(117) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(118) Size Matters
(119) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(120) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(121) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(122) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(123) The Point Of It All
(124) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(125) Fall Fly Fishing
(126) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(127) Big River, Big Fish
(128) Bottom Bonanza
(129) Fishing Small Flies
(130) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(131) Four Seasons of the Bow
(132) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(134) Trout Hunting New Zealand style
(135) Don’t Leave Home Without Them – 10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(136) Edge Walleye
(138) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(139) Four Corners – Four Waters
(140) Chasing Pothole Trout
(141) Springtime Stoneflies
(142) The Torrents of Spring
(143) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(144) Bust Them With Bait
(145) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(146) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(147) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(148) Terrestrials
(149) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(150) Rocky Mountain High
(151) Reading the clues
(152) Where the Trout Are The art of locating feeding trout in rivers and streams.
(153) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(154) Fly Fishing 101
(155) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(156) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(157) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(158) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(159) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(160) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(161) Trust Your Electronics
(162) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(163) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(164) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(165) Walleye can be Humbling
(166) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(167) Winter Flyfishing
(168) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(169) Hot Fall Pike Action
(170) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(171) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(172) Frequently Asked Questions
(173) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(174) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(175) Deep Water Perch
(176) Post Spawn Brookies
(177) A Fisher's Life
(178) The River's Last Stand
(179) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(180) Coho on the Coast
(181) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(182) Summer in the Mountains
(183) Peak Walleye Season
(184) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(185) Last Ice Rainbows
(186) The Burbot Event
(187) Tackle Matching
(188) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(189) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(190) The Lure of Brook Trout
(191) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(192) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(193) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(194) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(195) The Vesatile Plug
(196) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(197) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(198) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(199) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(200) Daily Fish Migrations
(201) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(202) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(203) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(204) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(205) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(206) The Fun in Ultra Light
(207) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(208) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(209) Never Stop Learning
(210) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(211) Jigging through the Ice
(212) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(213) Rainbows on Ice
(214) The Season of Ice Begins
(215) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(216) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(217) Facts On Cats
(218) West Coast Adventure
(219) June Walleye Frenzy
(220) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(221) First Fish of the Year Pothole Rainbows and Browns
(222) Northern Exposure
(223) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(224) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(225) Man Overboard
Canada Boating License