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.
Below, I have listed my favorite baits, lures, rigs, and tips on how to catch halibut.
- Here Are the Best Halibut Lures, Baits, and Rigs
- 1. Circle Hook with Dead Bait and Lead Weight
- 2. Heavy Halibut Jigs
- 3. Mooching Rig
- 4. Spreader Bars or Halibut Rig
- 5. Swim Jigs with Teaser
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. Moching 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.
Here Are the Best Halibut Lures, Baits, and Rigs
1. Circle Hook with Dead Bait and Lead Weight
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.
A circle hook is the 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.
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 make 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.
This is green ganyen line that is prefect for making halibut leaders. Size 21 is a good size for halibut leaders. It does not say the exact strength but it is around 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 solid braided nylon cord with a line strength of 150 pounds. This comes in 1 pound spools for around $50.
This barrel swivel works great for the custom halibut rig. One swivel attaches the gangen to the main line. 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 anyway.
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.
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 allows the leader with the 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.
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 is a good value. There is no need to use fluorocarbon leader because halibut are not leader shy.
Jinkai Premium monofiliment leader can also be used as a quality low cost leader line for halibut bottom rigs.
2. 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.
The Mega Bite swim tail jig is made by light house 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 or salmon stomach, squid or octopus would be perfect.
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
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.
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 snell knot.
I also use these leaders to troll with herring on a down rigger or with a mooching rig about 100 feet behind the boat.
4. 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.
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!