I have fished for halibut in Juneau Alaska and Sitka Alaska. Halibut are the prized fish of the North Pacific Ocean. Halibut get huge, fight hard and are great eating fish! Fishing for halibut can be difficult or easy depending on location, time of year and currents. What makes fishing for halibut difficult is that they are usually very deep and like to bite in strong currents. This means that a lot of weight is needed.
Halibut are typically caught by anchoring the boat and using lots of bait to act as chum to attract the fish. A good scent trail can bring halibut to the boat from miles away. The longer you wait the more likely halibut are to come and the fish tend to get larger as time passes on the same spot. About three hours is typically spent on a halibut fishing spot. Drift fishing is not typically as effective but does work to catch halibut.
Halibut are typically found in gravel flats or located near what people in Alaska call rock piles but what I would typically refer to as a hump or underground mountain.
The current around rock piles can cause eddies that trap bait. On rock piles the halibut stay near the bottom where it begins to get flat and try to ambush prey. Halibut tend to sit on one side of the rock pile, typically the up current side of a rock pile. If you find a good spot where halibut are biting it will probably only be good in that specific spot when the tide is flowing in the same direction.
Gravel flats are often marked on charts. The other way to find them is to use the depth finder while motoring around to find an area that is flat compared to the surrounding area. If it is rocky there will not be as many halibut and you will probably catch many rockfish which will decrease the amount of scent on the bottom.
When drifting using heavy jigs or mooching rigs with herring can be used to drag on the bottom. When anchoring it is good to keep lots of smelly baits down. Baits can include herring, pollock, ling cod heads, salmon bellies, salmon guts, pink salmon or octopus. If only one or two poles are used a chum bag on the bottom is a good idea to keep a scent trail going. Having someone jigging also helps keep action in the water which helps attract fish.
Mooching while anchored is also a good idea, you can catch salmon on the way down and halibut once the rig is near the bottom. Listed below are the top lures and baits for halibut. Large non-pelagic rockfish, lingcod are often found in the same area as halibut and these baits work well for them.
In the video above I show you exactly how to make the best halibut fishing rig. Below I show you where you can buy each item needed to make the halibut rigs.
Here Are the Best Halibut Lures, Baits, and Rigs
1. Circle Hook with Bait
Price: Around $14
A circle hook is a great way to catch halibut because the fish bite slowly and hard to set with a j-hook. I typically use a 16/0 hook because it can hold a lot of stinky bait that acts like chum. Although a 16/0 is large it can still catch small 20 inch halibut. If you are targeting small halibut a size 14/0 circle hook is probably best.
The circle hooks is just part of the rig. A lead weight and swivels are also needed. The rig is made up with 100-pound mono line and 150-pound gangen line.
Lead Weight (16-36 oz)
Price: Around $23
A 16-ounce lead weight is good for shallow low current halibut fishing. A 32-ounce ball is what I typically use when halibut fishing in 200-400 feet of water. If the current is really strong I will switch to a 48 lb lead ball which is 3 pounds. This makes it difficult to reel in even without a big halibut on the line.
The lead ball can be attached to the swivel on a custom halibut rig. The weight can also be attached to the bottom of the spreader bar if that is being used.
Braided Nylon Twine (#36 size)
Price: Around $19
This is a green gangen line that is perfect for making halibut leaders. Size 36 is a good size for halibut leaders. It does not say the exact strength but should be over a 100-pound test.
This twine is very similar to what I was using in the video above. This line is more flexible which is nice but you might need to melt the ends of the line to prevent line fray.
The exact line I was using was ashaway tuna leader, green, which is a solid braided nylon cord with a line strength of 150 pounds. This comes in 1 pound spools for around $50.
Barrel Swivel (Size 8/0)
Price: Around $11
This barrel swivel works great for the custom halibut rig. One swivel attaches the gangen to the mainline. The other barrel swivel attaches the mono line to the snap swivel. Size 8/0 is a large swivel which is nice for a halibut rig. Halibut are not leader shy in any way.
The other barrel swivel option would be a Rosco nickle barrel swivel in the 6/0 or 8/0 size. These are commonly used in commercial fishing.
Snap Swivel (8/0)
Price: Around $5
Two snap swivels are used for each custom halibut rig. The first swivel attaches the large lead weight. The snap swivel makes it so the lead weight an be easily taken off between trips. A round one pound or two-pound weight is typically used.
The second snap swivels allow the leader with the hook and barrel swivel to be taken on and off the rig. This is nice because the rig can be baited quickly and sent back down. It is important to always have bait on the bottom to keep the scent trail going to bring the halibut toward the baits.
Monofiliment Line (100 pound)
Price: Around $12
A leader line with 100-pound test is what I use when halibut fishing. I tie a perfection loop on one end to attach a circle hook and tie the other end to a barrel swivel.
This line is a good value. There is no need to use a fluorocarbon leader because halibut are not leader shy.
Jinkai Premium monofilament leader can also be used as a quality low-cost leader line for halibut bottom rigs.
2. Heavy Halibut Jigs
Mega Bite Swim Tail Jigs (14 Ounce)
Price: Around $22
The Mega Bite swim tail jig is made by lighthouse lures which is the big name in halibut lures. These jigs come in many great colors and come with two extra swim tails. These come in handy because halibut love to shew on things.
Glow hurricane and White Russian are great color options. I would also recommend adding some bait to the hook for scent purposes. A piece of the salmon stomach, squid or octopus would be perfect.
Big Eye Glow Jig (16 ounce)
Price: Around $18
This is a great all-around jig. It has a glow head and body flutters great in the current. Bouncing a jig of the bottom can attract halibut and help put them in feeding mode. This style jig also comes in a 24-ounce version.
Again add a scented bait to the tip of this just such as herring, a piece of salmon or squid.
3. Mooching Rig for Halibut
A mooching rig on the bottom is probably the best halibut rig out there to catch halibut that are under 38 inches in length. A hoochie can be added to the rig or it can be fished with a herring. If the current is very strong like it is in Juneau Alaska you will need to add more than the typical 6-ounce weight of a mooching rig.
Mooching Herring Leader (Double Hooks)
Price: Around $5
This is the basic mooching leader used with dead herring to catch salmon and halibut. This is a 40-pound leader with a 4/0 and a 5/0 hook.
The rig has to hooks that are tied together with a snell knot.
I also use these leaders to troll with herring on a downrigger or with a mooching rig about 100 feet behind the boat.
Mooching Slider (1 1/2 inch)
Price: Around $10
This slider for the sinker is perfect for mooching or getting a bait to the bottom for halibut fishing.
A gum pucky can be placed in front of the slider if inexperienced anglers will be using the rod and will reel the slider into the tip of the fishing pole.
Six Bead Chain Swivel
Price: Around $22
This is the best swivel to use with a mooching rid. The six bead version is what I use when salmon and halibut fishing.
One end goes on the line of the fishing pole the other end goes to the leader line.
Round Ball Sinker Weight (8 ounce)
Price: Around $25
This is the weight used to get the herring to the bottom. When mooching for salmon a 6-ounce weight is typically used. For halibut, I like to use the 8-ounce weight to help it stay near the bottom when there is current.
4. Spreader Bar Halibut Rig
Halibut Spreader Bar by Gibbs
Price: Around $8
The spreader bar is used to hold the weight and have a short strong leader attache. This rig makes it less likely to tangle when fishing near the bottom.
Price: Around $14
A circle hook works well for hooking halibut and keeping them hooked. Size 10/0 is good for small halibut and size 16/0 is good for big halibut.
Lead Weight (16-36 oz)
Price: Around $23
One or two-pound cannonball sinker for the halibut rig weight.
500 Pound Clear Leader Line
Price: Around $26
This 500-pound monofilament leader line is good for keeping halibut on the line. Some times the 100-pound line will break when pulling on big halibut at the surface. If you know you are trying to catch big halibut then this heaver leader material is a good idea.
In the picture above are four halibut and two king salmon that were caught in Sitka Alaska.
This is a giant pacific octopus tentacle got spit up by a lingcod that we caught. We used to octopus for bait and caught huge halibut with it. Octopus is one of the best baits for halibut.
Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. If you have any questions about how to catch halibut feel free to leave them below.
If you have any suggestions for top halibut lures and baits, let me know below.
Captain Cody has worked on charter fishing boats in the Florida Keys, Virgin Islands and Alaska. Cody grew up in Pennsylvania and has also done extensive freshwater fishing including bass fishing tournaments. Cody strives to provide detailed information about the best fishing gear and tactics to help both novice and experienced anglers have a more productive and enjoyable time on the water. Cody also has a background in aerospace engineering and neuroscience but really only takes pride in being good at one thing and that is fishing!