"JUST FOR THE HALIBUT" - by Marilyn Murphy

On hook and line, fighting these sometimes monsters of the flounder family can be referred to as "Weight times Energy times wonder of unlimited proportions!" Well that may be the feeling you get once you hook one, but finding their habitat and then enticing them to bite is another thing.

The outer parameters and offshore of the Barkley Sound is the spring migration route of the Pacific Halibut, the largest of the Right eye Flounder Family. Halibut are bottom feeders with their shape being indicative of this, having both eyes on the same side of their head. They cruise the feeding grounds looking for their favorite foods: Octopus, Squid, Rock Fish and Herring.

A sounder and a nautical chart are a must for locating Halibut habitat. They prefer a sandy/rocky bottom and generally stay on banks (underwater plateaus) cruising for a meal. They feed where the bottom changes from sandy to a rock pile or a hump, these are referred to as bottom transitions. The edge of a bank or the edge of a reef are also transitions. These sudden changes in structure with the effect of a moving tide or current will ball up feed on either side of these transitions. This feed attracts all types of Bottom Fish including the Halibut.

So you can use your sounder and chart to find their habitat! Halibut are found from 50 feet to 200 feet of water. The use of a Loran is a bonus because you can mark the spot and return exactly to it at any time.

Whether you troll or jig for Halibut will depend on the sea. When the sea is big or windy trolling with downriggers is the most successful. Troll using a 12 or 15 lb cannon ball and keep you gear just above bottom. To ensure the bottom depth put you gear down until it just hits bottom then bring it up a few cranks. Trolling a white hootchie such as the OG12R behind a red Silver Eagle Flasher (or Hot Spot Flasher) is the standard rig. Large herring behind a flasher is another good choice. Troll very slow, much slower than for salmon.

When the seas are calm, jigging can be great. Use a fish shaped lead lure such as the Luhr Jensen Dungeness Stinger,the Gibbs Minnow, or the local favorite "Bud Zilda".

By jigging we lower the lure to the bottom then crank up a couple of turns of the reel. Now slowly raise your rod tip a few feet then drop it quickly allowing the lure to flutter on the decent. (its this fluttering that attracts the fish) Now stop - let the lure rest there a moment before repeating the action.

The strike is sensed by the angler as a "tap tap" followed by light pressure.....immediately set the hook and set it hard....now be prepared for a fight. These fish are so strong that they should be released or subdued outside the vessel because bring them aboard could cause damage to the boat and its occupants!

The daily bag limit is two and possession limit for Halibut is three. There are no size restrictions but a voluntary size limit of 32"( referred to as chickens) has been implemented by West Coast Charter Operations. This size limit is applied to the Commercial Halibut Fleet.

Halibut grow slowly and live for a long time. They migrate from the Bearing Sea to as far as the Oregon Coast. A tagging program by the International Halibut Commission showed that a Halibut may travel over 1400 miles in four years and only grow 15cm. A 32" Halibut weighing eleven pounds is a startling eight years old!

Halibut fishing is fun but safety is first and foremost. These waters call for a Deep V Hulled boat large enough to handle ocean swells. Equipment should include "that which is required by law" plus a good sounder, VHF radio ( Coast Guard does not monitor CB), and a Loran navigational device. Keep in mind that fog and foul weather does frequent these waters, so monitor the weather channel for up to date changes before and while your on the water.

Wishing you a safe and productive Fishing Trip,

Best Fishes,
Marilyn Murphy
Murphy's Sportfishing Guide Service

For more information on our Halibut Fishing Trips
off Vancouver Island's West Coast, email murphy@island.net