Halibut are much more than mere flounders. They’re massive, fun to fight, and delicious to eat. Inhabiting cold northern waters, they’re the perfect targets for a memorable fishing trip. They’re also not so easy to catch. You can’t just take an old, standard approach and apply it to halibut. If you don’t adapt to the specific circumstances of halibut fishing, you’re almost certain to get skunked. Keep these six tips in mind to maximize your chances of halibut success.
If Bait Fishing, Stay Still
When using bait, you’re hoping to attract the fish to you. Moving to a new spot every few minutes is counter productive. You need to give the bait plenty of time to do its work and attract the halibut. You should also resist the temptation to reel in every few minutes. We all get the urge to “check the bait,” but you’re working against yourself every time you pull the rig out of the water. Patience is a hallmark of any successful fishing strategy, but it’s especially important when targeting a challenging species like halibut.
Leave Dogfish, Skates, and Other Pests Behind
While you generally want to avoid unnecessary movement, you should make an exception when you’re being mercilessly harassed by “garbage species.” There’s nothing wrong with dogfish and skates per se, but they’re not the targets. Every minute you spend fighting and unhooking a pest is another minute your bait is unavailable to the halibut you’re actually after. An occasional dogfish is hardly a big deal, but if the harassment is constant then you’re better off hauling anchor and trying a new spot.
A chum bag can do wonders to attract halibut. While the bait itself will be enticing, why not maximize the appeal by tossing out some chum for good measure? Halibut are known to follow their noses, which is why dropping a stinky bag of chum is such a successful strategy. Instead of throwing out any extra bait or fish guts, put them to good use as chum. A bloody, smelly mess is just what you want in your chum bag. The nastier the chum, the happier the halibut.
Use Salmon for Bait
There are a number of bait options for halibut, but anglers consistently rate salmon as the top choice. Salmon heads are a particularly popular choice, since they’re tough and they stay on the hook. This toughness also means you have to go for a hefty hook set when you get a bite. Herring are another great bait. Try using fillets rather than steaks or whole fish to maximize the smell of the bait.
There’s no sense in just standing around and watching your rods while you bait fish. You might as well make use of those idle hands and do some jigging off the stern of the boat. A strip of bait, whether herring or salmon, will add to the jig’s presentation. The combination of smell and movement might just prove irresistible to a cruising halibut. Be sure to jig with only a single rod, as multiple jigs will only cause tangles.
Hire a Charter
While following the above-mentioned tips will certainly increase your chances at landing a monster halibut, the best way to maximize your odds of success is by hiring a charter boat. Charter captains are true professionals. They make a living from knowing the ins and outs of halibut fishing. Not only will they know all the best methods and all the top spots, but they’ll also know the latest news from being out on the water. If there’s a certain hole that’s been recently holding fish, the charter captains are bound to know about it. When you hire a charter, you’re paying for the know-how that will get you into serious fish.