Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) belong to the family Pleuronectidae, righteyed 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.
“BarnDoor 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 BarnDoor stature of the females rarely weighing more than 50 pounds. The halibut of
Pacific halibut are renowned as the chicken of the sea. You don’t have to travel to
It is a threehour 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
Rockpile: Yaquina Head
South Inside South Outside Center Far North Light House-
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 fivesecond 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.
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 30fathom line offers the angler several advantages. Competition for the most productive fishing locations is not as competitive inside the 30fathom 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 30fathom 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 30fathom line. The most productive halibut fishing inside the 30fathom 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
Commercial salmon fishermen catch a lot of halibut while trolling near the bottom for Chinook salmon. Fish on the bottom inside the 30fathom 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. Pretied 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.
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.