Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) belong to the family Pleuronectidae, right–eyed flounders.  They are almost always right eyed but occasionally left eyed.  The color of the eyed side varies from greenish brown to dark brown or black with lighter blotches.  The blind side is colored white to milky white.  Ambicoloration is a condition where pigmentation occurs on the blind side and is a fairly common color variation among halibut while albinism rarely occurs.

  “Barn–Door Halibut” is a term which accurately describes female halibut measuring over 5 feet in length and weighing in excess of 100 pounds.  Male halibut do not achieve the Barn–Door stature of the females rarely weighing more than 50 pounds.  The halibut of Oregon ’s coastal waters rarely weigh more than 100 pounds but can weigh in excess of 300 pounds and exceed 7 feet in length, while halibut in the Aleutian Islands weigh in excess of 500 pounds and exceed 8¾ feet in length.  The typical halibut caught in Oregon ’s coastal waters measures between 24 and 50 inches in length.  A halibut weighing 307 lbs was caught by an Oregon shrimp trawler.  The size and weights of the average halibut landed during the season are as follows: a 32 inch halibut weighs 14 ½ pounds, a 47 inch halibut weighs 50 pounds, a 50 inch halibut weighs 60 pounds and a 60 inch halibut weighs 100 pounds.  Measure a halibut on a straight line from the tip of the lower jaw with the mouth closed to the tip of the middle of the tail fin.

  Pacific halibut are renowned as the chicken of the sea.  You don’t have to travel to Washington State , British Columbia or Alaska to fish for the Chicken of the Sea – Pacific halibut.  Oregon comprises a portion of the southern range of Pacific halibut, which extends into the ocean waters off of northern California .  Every year anglers from the Port of Newport at Yaquina Bay land nearly half of Oregon ’s halibut catch, while anglers from Garibaldi account for a third of the halibut catch with anglers from the Ports of Charleston Harbor and Depoe Bay landing the rest of the catch.  Heceta Banks supported a commercial halibut fishery for boats out of Newport after WW1.

  It is a three–hour trip aboard a charter vessel to the Chicken Ranch 4427’ latitude 12442 longitude or Halibut Hill 4430’ latitude 12450 longitude.  The fishing grounds are located 28 and 33 miles from the Port of Newport .  On average, larger halibut are caught at halibut hill than at the chicken ranch.  Halibut hill and the chicken ranch are two locations where halibut are found on a consistent basis through June.  The following table lists the Loran C Readings for the locations at Stonewall Bank and Yaquina Head lighthouse where halibut are found during halibut season from boats fishing out the Port of Newport at Yaquina Bay located on the central Oregon coast.

Rockpile:                                                                                                   Yaquina Head

South  Inside      South   Outside        Center                Far North         Light House-

12941.00 27888.01

12950.01 27887.00

12910.07 27890.08

12896.07 27893.01

12836.00 27913.00

12939.04 27892.02

12942.00 27884.04

12910.00 27891.00

12880.04 27898.02

12839.00 27917.00

12945.02 27888.02

12927.12 27886.97

12925.00 27887.04

12843.08 27952.07

12936.00 27893.02.

12923.00 27888.04

12841.02 27935.02

12937.00 27888.06

12902.00 27892.00

12853.00 27925.00

12935.01 27882.05

12903.04 27893.06

12820.00 27938.00

12933.00 27892.00

12909.07 27889.06

  Fish for halibut in areas with irregular features associated with rocky reefs, i.e. drop-offs, edges gullies or pinnacles.  The slope at south end of the Stonewall Bank is home to halibut throughout the year in water that is greater than 40 fathoms deep. Refer to page 217 for the latitude and longitude coordinates for the location of the halibut caught during the Triennial Trawl Surveys.

  The captains and crewmen of the charter fishing industry really know their business and will do everything necessary to ensure a successful halibut trip.  When fishing over the offshore reefs the first baits to the bottom are the ones that usually hook the fish.  The angler should spend as much time as possible at the number one station.  The number one station is located at the astern section of the boat.  Anglers at this station get to release their bait first.  Rail position is determined by drawing the station number out of a hat.  The anglers rotate station positions every time the captain repositions the boat.  The crew should not allow inconsiderate anglers to monopolize the number one station.

  The unstable spring weather drives strong ocean currents.  Current direction and velocity are the determining factor in positioning the boat.  Current velocity determines the size of the sinker.  Use round ball sinkers weighing between 16 and 64 ounces.  The angler’s odds of hooking a halibut are dramatically improved the faster the bait arrives to the target area.   A strong current can carry a light sinker away from the target area.  Once the boat is in position the angler at the number one station puts the reel into free spool and lowers the sinker into the water allowing it free fall to the bottom.  Keep control of the falling herring by exerting pressure on the spool with your thumb to avoid a backlash when the sinker hits the bottom.  The anglers at the other stations release their sinkers in consecutive order at five–second intervals.  The staggered release helps prevent the fouling of one another’s lines.  In a minute or so all the baits are on the bottom and the anticipation is high.  When the bait reaches the bottom, engage the brake and bounce the bait along the bottom.  When the halibut strikes or is detected mouthing the bait, release two or three feet of line giving the halibut time to swallow the bait.  Set the hook lifting the rod as hard as possible to turn the halibut’s head upward in the water column.  Do not let the halibut use its body against you.  Try not to lower the rod tip or allow any slack in the line or you may lose the halibut.  Keep the pressure on by pulling up on the rod and reeling down pumping the halibut to the boat keeping its head up.  Use the roll of the boat to reel down to pump the halibut to the surface.  Do not lift the halibut’s head out of the water until it has been gaffed or harpooned.  Lifting a halibut’s head out of the water drives it into a rage that can set it free.  Use a gaff to bring a halibut aboard but bringing a medium to large halibut aboard alive jeopardizes the safety of everyone onboard. Large halibut are sometime referred to as shooters because they have to be shot with a .410 shotgun before being pulled onboard.  Harpooning the halibut is the preferred alternative to using a shotgun.  Drive the harpoon into and through the solid area behind the halibut's head.  Make sure the line from the harpoon is attached to a buoy so it can be thrown overboard if necessary. 

    Dorothy from Kansas did not need her “Red Shoes” to land this halibut at the Chicken Ranch.  It took her only a half an hour using the terminal tackle provided by the charter service. The terminal tackle consists of a short stout heavy rod equipped with roller guides, a rail plate and a high quality dual or single speed level wind reel with the capacity to hold 450 yards of 50 pound test Dacron or abrasion resistant braided fusion line.  The reel should be equipped with gears that standup to all the strain and pressure an angry barn door sized halibut can apply to it without stripping them.  The reel should also be equipped with a heavy duty star drag capable of slowing down an angry barn door sized halibut.  The combination of the heavy rod with roller guides and a quality reel geared with the high speed line retrieval feature reduces the time is takes to bring a barn door sized halibut to gaff. 

  Halibut are found in deepwater from a depth of 125 to 250 fathoms from December to March before moving into shallow water during May.  Their presence inside the 30–fathom line offers the angler several advantages.  Competition for the most productive fishing locations is not as competitive inside the 30–fathom line during the “all depths” season.  The shorter travel time to the inshore fishing locations translates to more fishing time.  The physical exertion of landing a halibut inside the 30–fathom line is not as demanding as pumping one up from 100 plus fathoms.  Private fishing vessels do make the trip to the offshore fishing grounds, but most fish inside the 30–fathom line.  The most productive halibut fishing inside the 30–fathom line occurs over a hard sandy or mud bottom in areas with irregular features such as holes, shallow depressions or ridges.  Halibut are gregarious fish and gather in schools.  They are found in the same general area season after season.  Halibut are found at the following locations: 24 fathoms two miles off the mouth of the Beaver Creek Estuary, 27 fathoms off the mouth of the Alsea River , 25 fathoms off of Seal Rock and at a depth of 27 fathoms off the mouth of Rocky Creek at Otter Head.  Halibut are found from the whistle buoy off the entrance to Yaquina Bay to Yaquina Head at depths from 25 to 29 fathoms.  Later during the summer, halibut averaging over one hundred pounds are found near Yaquina Head at 4442’ latitude12409 longitude.

  Commercial salmon fishermen catch a lot of halibut while trolling near the bottom for Chinook salmon.  Fish on the bottom inside the 30–fathom line trolling herring to locate halibut.  Troll with a whole herring rigged on mooching hooks using a downrigger to present the herring to the halibut.  Pre–tied halibut mooching hooks manufactured size 6/0 hooks or larger come with wire or monofilament leaders and are available at most tackle shops.  Troll the herring with slow roll between 2 and 4 knots.  Use a halibut spreader rigged with a round ball sinker to present the herring to the halibut if boat is not equipped with downriggers.  To use a halibut spreader, tie a size 6 cross lock snap swivel to the end of the main line.  Attach the middle of the halibut spreader to the cross lock snap swivel on the end of the main line.  Halibut spreaders are manufactured with cross locks or barrel swivels attached to the ends of the spreader arms.  Attach a 12 to 32 ounce round ball sinker to the cross lock on the bottom arm of the spreader using 3 foot length of 40 pound test monofilament line.  Tie two sized 6 or larger mooching hooks to the end of a 6 foot length of 150 lb test monofilament line and tie the other end to the cross lock snap swivel or barrel swivel on the top leg of the halibut spreader. Herring are the most productive bait used to catch halibut.  Use the largest herring available.  Herring packed in black or purple packages are preferred.  Bait the whole herring to the mooching hooks.  Lower the herring to the bottom and troll with a slow roll from 2 to 4 knots.  Lower the tip of the rod to feel the round ball sinker hitting the bottom to ensure the bait is next to the bottom and crank the herring up several feet. 

  Deepwater fishing at depths to 650 plus feet for halibut requires heavy sinkers up to 64 ounces.  Rig the herring for deepwater presentation to the halibut by tying a size 6 cross lock snap swivel to the end of the main line.  Attach a 32 to 64 ounce round ball sinker to the cross lock snap swivel.  Tie a size 9/0 circle or J hook to one end of a 6 foot length of 150 lb test monofilament line and a size 6 cross lock snap swivel to the other end.  Snap the cross lock snap swivel to the eye on the end of the round ball sinker.  The use of circle hooks has doubled the catch rate.  To bait the herring to the hook, insert the hook into the side of the herring at the lateral line just ahead of the tail.  Lace the hook through the herring several times from the tail forward with the hook exiting just behind the head pointing toward the tail and you are ready to fish.

  Record the GPS coordinates of the location where the halibut was hooked.  Once the halibut is safely onboard, return to the original location and catch another.  Even though fishing with herring is the most productive method used to catch halibut there are anglers who prefer to fish for halibut using artificial lures.  The Diamond Jig is the most effective artificial lure fished at all depths followed by the leadhead jig.  A 16 ounce Diamond Jig or 8 to 24 ounce leadhead jig sweetened with squid or a piece of strip bait cut from herring, the belly of a rockfish or a piece of halibut skin from the white side is an offering old bucket mouth cannot refuse.  Use 8 to 16 inch Scampi or curly tail grub with a leadhead jig.  White, motor oil, root beer, chartreuse and glow in the dark green and red are the most productive colors.  Tie a size 3/0 barrel swivel to the end of the main line.  Attach the jig to the main line with a 6 foot length of 150 pound monofilament leader.  Allow the jig to free–fall to the bottom.  The addition of a halibut shrimp fly above the jig is an effective option to consider when fishing inside the 30–fathom line.  Reel the jig several feet off of the bottom and yo yo the jig, up and down occasionally bouncing it off of the bottom.  If yo yoing does not produce a strike reel the jig 20 feet above the bottom and let it free–fall back to the bottom.  Lift the jig and bounce it on the bottom several times to entice the halibut to bite the jig.  Stay focused, because you never know when you will feel the strike of a barn door sized halibut.    

  Landing a large halibut from any depth is physically demanding.  During the struggle to land the halibut your forearms scream for relief and there is intense strain on your back.  Wear a lower back support belt while fishing and put on a fighting belt after hooking a large halibut.  If you have to rest keep tension on the line to prevent the halibut from slipping the hook.  The physical exhaustion of landing a large halibut is exceeded by jubilation and the self satisfaction of looking forward to dinning on some of the finest fillets the ocean has to offer.

Pacific halibut:

Date......Depth....From:.....To:........................Date..Depth..From:..........To:...................................

06/30/98  426   4214.18   12431.34   4215.73   12431.71***

07/13/95  702   4214.81   12524.05   4213.25   12524.45***

07/01/98  813   4223.28   12443.95   4224.65   12445.11*

07/02/98  629   4242.38   12442.67   4243.86   12442.98

07/15/95  475   4254.93   12516.44   4253.27   12516.32

07/16/95  223   4303.09   12529.00   4304.73   12529.35***

07/03/98  216   4303.49   12430.84   4305.05   12430.52***

07/03/98  410   4303.95   12437.32   4305.56   12437.21**

07/03/98  843   4305.10   12451.74   4306.50   12450.56**

07/04/98  656   4316.08   12442.50   4314.53   12442.85***

07/18/95  397   4323.09   12526.93   4324.71   12527.48*

07/18/95  347   4326.40   12532.43   4324.85   12531.72**

07/18/95  298   4326.51   12536.07   4325.00   12535.27*

07/18/95  249   4334.20   12543.27   4332.74   12542.99*

07/18/95  574   4335.29   12527.82   4333.72   12527.48***

07/05/98  551   4335.46   12431.97   4333.96   12432.30***

07/05/98  449   4335.56   12428.91   4334.06   12429.32*

07/18/95  547   4342.69   12528.56   4344.34   12528.97*

07/05/98  577   4343.60   12432.38   4345.14   12432.65**

07/18/95  577   4344.46   12527.83   4342.84   12528.05

07/18/95  380   4345.14   12536.86   4343.70   12536.25*

07/19/95  774   4353.61   12510.27   4354.31   12508.39*

07/07/98  242   4353.97   12415.31   4355.59   12415.33

07/19/95  627   4354.46   12516.85   4354.46   12514.75*

07/06/98  456   4356.13   12431.72   4354.53   12432.08*

07/20/95  380   4402.96   12514.55   4404.43   12514.09

07/20/95  308   4404.61   12510.06   4403.60   12511.85*

07/20/95  443   4415.38   12510.83   4415.41   12509.07**

07/08/98  419   4422.69   12444.00   4423.89   12442.70*

07/22/95  433   4422.95   12516.21   4424.19   12517.32**

07/21/95  518   4423.74   12514.62   4425.17   12515.53*

07/09/98  334   4424.28   12433.57   4425.83   12432.59**

07/21/95  351   4424.39   12526.57   4425.89   12527.33**

07/08/98  367   4424.55   12437.72   4425.24   12435.78*

07/21/95  229   4424.78   12543.22   4423.20   12543.37*

07/22/95  380   4425.55   12523.25   4424.30   12522.05**

07/11/98  390   4432.45   12432.31   4433.92   12431.47*

07/21/95  570   4432.61   12523.76   4434.10   12524.04*

07/10/98  262   4433.44   12417.40   4434.99   12417.68***

07/10/98  259   4435.17   12420.85   4433.54   12420.85*

07/22/95  259   4435.23   12542.42   4433.65   12542.94*

07/11/98  429   4443.71   12428.29   4445.14   12427.31*     

07/10/98  331   4443.90   12419.97   4444.94   12418.29*  

07/10/98  360   4444.05   12423.22   4444.91   12421.33*      

07/23/95  262   4444.74   12544.93   4443.28   12544.02*

07/11/98  528   4445.27   12433.08   4445.43   12430.91***     

07/23/95  390   4445.99   12538.71   4444.82   12537.18

07/23/95  344   4446.02   12543.11   4444.98   12541.38

07/23/95  449   4446.18   12533.70   4444.86   12532.27*

07/12/95  846   4453.30   12446.42   4452.32   12547.81***

07/13/98  638   4453.59   12424.77   4454.76   12423.45**

07/23/95  574   4454.57   12536.20   4455.79   12537.79**

07/12/98  695   4455.53   12425.78   4454.29   12427.11***

07/25/95  1102 4503.26   12532.41   4504.62   12533.56**

07/13/98  505   4503.54   12415.16   4505.04   12414.68

07/13/98  400   4503.61   12411.41   4505.23   12410.95

07/13/98  803   4503.85   12422.55   4505.31   12421.70***

07/25/95  803   4505.60   12538.71   4504.13   12537.92**

07/25/95  403   4505.97   12549.26   4504.37   12549.11*

07/25/95  524   4506.33   12545.70   4504.82   12545.23*

07/25/95  423   4514.50   12549.52   4512.79   12549.94*

07/25/95  692   4514.80   12540.77   4513.18   12541.24**

07/14/98  666   4516.97   12419.33   4515.41   12419.05**

07/15/98  698   4533.11   12427.05   4534.63   12427.96**

07/27/95  767   4534.22   12531.54   4532.72   12531.93**

07/28/95  446   4543.02   12544.38   4544.64   12544.68*

07/28/95  587   4543.22   12531.83   4544.63   12530.85**

07/29/95  242   4543.86   12555.89   4545.47   12555.85*

07/29/95  354   4543.94   12549.20   4545.55   12549.13*

07/27/95  508   4553.00   12530.24   4554.44   12530.22**

07/12/98  846   4553.30   12446.42   4552.32   12447.81***

07/16/98  472   4553.60   12424.91   4555.06   12425.39*

07/28/95  334   4554.32   12548.39   4555.81   12547.92*

07/28/95  249   4554.32   12554.85   4555.80   12555.18*

07/30/95  465   4603.36   12529.12   4604.65   12527.80**

07/19/98  767   4603.66   12442.31   4605.22   12442.13**

07/29/95  679   4603.67   12519.03   4605.25   12519.20*

07/18/98  465   4603.93   12431.59   4605.12   12433.10*

07/18/98  216   4604.16   12406.11   4605.85   12406.98

07/29/95  413   4604.93   12536.49   4606.36   12535.55*

07/28/95  232   4605.17   12552.31   4604.00   12553.84

07/29/95  1036 4615.46   12535.28   4613.97   12534.83

07/19/98  485   4625.12   12431.73   4623.72   12432.72*

07/19/98  413   4625.25   12427.97   4623.67   12428.24*

07/20/98  410   4632.85   12427.46   4634.40   12427.69*

07/20/98  298   4633.13   12424.09   4634.61   12424.32*

07/20/98  200   4633.37   12416.43   4635.05   12416.42

07/31/95  282   4633.59   12535.91   4635.26   12535.94*

07/20/98  639   4634.82   12434.85   4634.29   12432.73***

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