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.
Drift fishing or anchoring with chum are the two main methods used to fish for halibut. Anchoring is the preferred method because a good scent trail can bring the halibut to the boat from miles away.
Below, I have listed my favorite baits, lures, and rigs, and how tips on how to catch halibut.
I would suggest drift fishing in a new area until a few halibut are caught and a pattern can be established where the fish are located. Halibut are typically found in sand flats and gravel flats 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. The halibut stay near the bottom often behind some bottom structure in this area 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.
When drifting using heavy jigs or mooching rigs with herring can be used. 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 line going. Having someone jigging also helps keep action in the water which helps attract fish. Moching while anchored is also a good idea, you can catch salon on the way down and halibut once the rig is on the bottom. Listed below are the top five lure 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.
Here Are the Best Halibut Lures, Baits, and Rigs
1. Mooching Rig with a Large Weight
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.
A Hoochie skirts can be added to the hook to act as an additional attractant. A 4 3/4 inch is the size generally used.
A two pound lead weight works to keep the rig on the bottom in strong currents.
A size 4/0 Siwash open eye hook is good for small halibut. A size 6/0 hook works well for medium size halibut. The open eye allows the hook to be put on a barrel swivel with a pair of pliers. The standard double hook leader with snell knots that are used on mooching rigs would also work well.
Beads are used to space the hoochie on the hook.
Corkscrew swivels size 2# work to attach the weight to the front of the rig. A slider rig would be used if smaller weight is being used in low currents.
Halibut Nectar can be added to the hoochie and other baits for added scent.
2. Spreader Bars or Halibut Rig
A circle hook works well for hooking halibut and keeping them hooked. Size 10/0 is good for small halibut and size 12/0 is good for big halibut.
One or two pound cannon ball sinker for the halibut rig weight.
Halibut Spreader Bar by Gibbs, used to catch big halibut.
LED deep drop lights for halibut spreader bar rig. Lights lifespan is over 350 hours.
Heavy 500 pound leader line with crimps. Halibut are not leader shy and this rig will work for big halibut.
Glow thimbles to work with the leader crimps.
Crimp tool crimper, works for multiple size crimps and has a side cutter.
Swim Jigs are great baits for halibut fishing especially when drifting. Large jigs usually catch large fish so adding a teaser allows for the smaller halibut to be caught. A teaser is added by tying a hook on the leaser about two feet above the jig. This is done by tying a dropper loop into the leader line.
Shown above is a fluke that was caught on the teaser hook above the jig. For halibut, cut bait like herring or Pollock would be placed on a bare hook. If you do not have bait white gulp should work.
A 10-ounce jig head is used for the body of the jig. A 10-ounce to 16-ounce jig is typically needed due to strong currents in the area being fished.
A 8 inch curly tail jig works good as the tail, white or glow are great colors.
A 4/0 J-hook is used as the teaser hook above the jig. The hook is placed through the dropper loop on the leader and pulled tight. Typically 50-pound leader line is used.
4. Heavy Halibut Jigs
Heavy jigs work great for halibut. A teaser as described above can also be used with these jigs. Tipping the jigs with bait such as a strip of salmon belly or strip of the cod belly is helpful because it adds scent. A piece of herring can also be used but would be more likely to come off the hook.
Gibbs Delta 8 ounce jig with a white or glow tail works great in slow to medium currents.
Mega bite 9 ounce, 14-inch swim tail jigs work great in slow to medium currents.
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!