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23 Halibut Fishing Tips (How To Catch Halibut in 2021!)

man holding large halibut on boat in ocean

Fishing For Halibut

The awesome part about catching halibut, is that we as fisherman are not required in any way to exaggerate about the size of the fish we catch.  Well…maybe we still do, but with halibut, we sure don’t need to.

Since it’s quite common to catch 30 pounders every day of the week, we can hold our heads high with pride with each one of those fish we bring into the boat.

But how do we catch more halibut?  Keep reading…

Introduction

The purpose of this post is to help you do just that…provide you tips on how to catch more halibut. Read through these halibut fishing tips and tricks and see which ones you can implement on your next trip out.

Here’s some of the halibut fishing tips we’ll cover:

  • Where To Find Halibut
  • Halibut Fishing Tackle
  • The Best Halibut Bait
  • Plus…Many MORE

But if we want to increase our chances at catching those big ‘ol ‘barn door’ halibut, we not only need to just find where the halibut are, but we need to increase the number of halibut we catch.  More halibut caught means better chances of hooking into the big one.

halibut fishing tips

23 Halibut Fishing Tips

Lets start with the most popular question.  Where’s the best place to find halibut?  We can have the best boat, the best tackle, the best bait…but if we don’t know where to find halibut, then we might as well stay home. 

Where To Find Halibut

1.  Halibut Like Hard Bottoms

Fish for halibut in areas where you suspect sand, gravel or cobble meets rock. Use the fishing maps from NOAA. These maps show what the bottom of oceans and waterways are made out of.

2.  Fish Underwater Humps And Bumps

Fish for halibut along humps on the sandy areas, on the tops of deep sea mounts, underwater benches beside reefs and along underwater shelves that stair-step into deep water.

3.  No Depth Is Too Deep 

As your fishing along the bottom in search of monster halibut, don’t ever be afraid to go deeper.  You can literally never go too deep when halibut fishing.  As a matter of fact, commercial fisherman have pulled up halibut from as deep as 3600 feet.

4. Follow The Salmon 

When the salmon are running, halibut will leave the bottom and feed on the migrating salmon, particularly pink salmon and sockeye salmon as they enter the bays and rivers.  The halibut also lay in wait for the salmon at the other end of the salmon spawning cycle, as salmon carcasses float down the rivers and into the bays.

5. Don’t Just Fish The Bottom

When we think halibut fishing, most of us think only bottom fishing.  Fact is, halibut will come clear up off the bottom to feed.  When schools of salmon come in, the halibut will come up as well.  As a matter of fact, halibut can be caught by trolling bait with a flasher, like these from Pro-Troll, about 6 feet off the bottom.

halibut and salmon hanging after being caught

Halibut Fishing Tackle Tips

What kind of tackle should you use for halibut fishing?  The best tip I can give you is to use large, sturdy tackle that’s designed for halibut fishing. You can use sturdy tackle designed for other fish, such as sturgeon, but you’ll quickly find out that fighting halibut is a different story and the wrong gear will leave you exhausted or broken hearted.

6.  Use A Sturdy Fishing Rod With Rollers

For halibut fishing use a sturdy 6 to 7 foot fishing rod that’s designed for halibut fishing.  Make sure the fishing rod has roller guides as this will make your job significantly easier!  

If you can’t afford a fishing rod with a complete set of rollers, at least install a roller guide at the tip of any rod that you use for halibut fishing.

These fishing rods made by Sanitam Fishing Rods are a great example of halibut rods with rollers.

7. Low Gear Fishing Reel 

The fishing reel you use for halibut fishing should ideally have a low gear ratio.  Having a reel with a low gear ratio will equal more power for you.

I’m a big fan of the Penn Squall level wind fishing reel for halibut fishing.  

8. Leverage A Longer Handle 

To gain even more power in your favor, try replacing yoru fishing reels factory handle with a longer handle.  This will increase your leverage and in turn provide even more power to the reel.

9. Use Circle Hooks

Circle hooks are the standard when it comes to knowing what hook to use halibut fishing. Commercial fishermen use them and so do most sport fishermen. They self set, and almost always hook in the corner of the fishes mouth.  Perfect! And that’s why I use them for dorado and marlin as well as halibut.

10.  Belt Up

One of the best things you can do once you hook into a halibut, even a smaller one, is to wear a fishing belt.  Wearing a belt will save your back and leave you in prime condition to fight again.

11.  Go Braided For Halibut Fishing

The best kind of fishing line for halibut fishing is hands down braided fishing line.  Braided line is incredibly strong compared to its thickness.  Because of its relatively thin diameter, it tends to stay vertical in the water and it doesn’t stretch, which means you get a better feel of the halibut.  This all equates to more fish in the boat.

Power Pro uses the exclusive Enhanced Body Technology which provides a rounder, smoother and structurally superior ultra-strong braided fishing line.  All of this makes this not only the best braided fishing line for spinning reels, but the best braided line for jigging, casting, trolling and big game fishing.

Power Pro braided line tends to last longer than the other brands because it does such a great job at not fraying.  Frayed line is an issue that occurs with all braided lines, but this one just has the ability to outperform all the others when it comes to preventing fraying.

how to catch halibut

Halibut Bait Tips

With halibut fishing, the saying is true, “Big baits catch big fish.”  Halibut eat just about anything.  Like flounder, they tend to bury themselves in the sand and wait for something to come strolling on by. Halibut will eat crabs, clams, squid, octopus, cod, flounder, rock fish and even salmon.  Here’s some of the best halibut bait you can put on your hook.

12.  Shad or Mackerel 

Halibut love a cut or slashed up shad or mackerel.  

13. Salmon Belly 

If you’re trolling for salmon on your way out to the halibut fishing grounds, keep those salmon bellies. Halibut love them

14.  No Guts. No Glory 

You guessed it.  Halibut also love fish guts.  Before you head out on your boat, make a quick pit stop at the local cleaning stations. Fill up on guts and carcasses.  Tie that on with a herring an you’re in business.

15.  Octopus 

I caught my first halibut with a small octopus.  Swing by you local grocery store and check out the seafood section.  Often times they’ll have a seafood mix which includes octopus, squid, clams, etc. which all make excellent halibut bait.

16.  Chum 

If it’s legal where you’re halibut fishing, tie a chum bag to a line, weight it down and send it on down to the halibut.  Much like carp fishing, the scent will drive the halibut nuts and draw them in from all around.

man holding halibut

Other Halibut Fishing Tips, Tricks And Techniques

17. Use a 50lb monofilament line as a leader

The rigidity of the thick mono line will keep the bait away from the sinker. 

The award winning 50 lb monofilament leader by KastKing is a great example of what a quality leader that you can use halibut fishing. 

KastKing mono line is formulated to be one of the most durable and abrasion resistant mono leader materials that you can get your hands on today.

18.  Don’t Set Circle Hooks

If you take my advice and use a circle hook to fish for halibut, resist the tempation of setting the hook. Circle hooks will set themselves. Let the halibut swim away with the bait and it’ll set itself.

19. Change Locations To Find Barn Door Halibut

Only bringing small halibut, or ‘chickens’ up to the boat?  Try moving to another location.  Believe it or not, but halibut feed on young, small halibut.  This means that they’ll typically swim away from the larger “barn door” halibut.

20.  Keep The Halibut’s Head Under Water

When you finally get the halibut up to the boat, keep the fish’s head under the surface of the water. Halibut will stay much more calm when under the water as opposed to having their head in the air.  Use this moment of relative calmness to gaff the halibut.

21.  Gaff Vs Harpoon

Use a hook style gaff for smaller halibut under 50 pounds.  For the larger halibut, use a harpoon to grab the fish.

22.  Use Fresh Bait​

Use fresh bait as much as possible. If you have to use frozen herring, or other frozen bait for halibut fishing, try soaking the bait in a salt water brine all night.  This will help stiffen up the bait. Then use smelly jelly on the bait when fishing.

23.  Release Halibut If You Want 

Want to release the halibut you caught.  If regulations permit it, then feel free.  Halibut don’t have a swim bladder, so being brought up from the depths to the surface doesn’t have the negative affect it has on fish with swim bladders.  Survival rates of released halibut are as high as 95%!

Final Thoughts

Do you have any other halibut fishing tips you want to share with us. If you do, please leave a comment, because all of us fishermen appreciate anything that puts hali’s in the boat! Because that means halibut is going in the freezer!

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Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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