BlogAugust 2017

Halibut Season is Here– Tips on How to Catch Halibut

Halibut Season is Here– Tips on How to Catch Halibut

By Tom Keer

Aug 24, 2017

Saltwater anglers along the West Coast are taking advantage of halibut season.  Get in on the action with these six tips.

Wondering to yourself, “When is halibut in season?” May through September is peak halibut season.  That means this is one of the best times to fish to pursue these flatfish that vary between small and enormous.  While the average size of this fish species is between 15 and 20 pounds, many are caught over 150 pounds.  Bring stout rods when you go, you might hook a beast; the largest Pacific halibut was caught in Alaska and weighed 459 pounds. As it seems like every angler along the Pacific coast is on the water dropping halibut bait to the bottom, here are six quick tips  on how to catch halibut and bring them in the boat.

1.Check your state regulations 

On one hand, the tricky part of  California halibut season is properly identifying your fish.  The jaw of a legal California halibut extends beyond the fish's eye while in a Pacific halibut it runs to the front edge of the eye. On the other hand, halibut fishing in Alaska means anglers can fish with only a single line with no more than two hooks.  Study all regulations so you're compliant.

2.Know your peak season

The best times to fish is during peak season, but those times vary.  In California, spring-summer is a good time to fish while in Alaska, halibut season is best in the summer and in the fall.  Study your area to determine the when and where to fish.

3.How to catch halibut

Flatfish hug the bottom, and the halibut's choice of depth is between 40 and 80 feet.  Halibut fishing in Alaska might require depths to 120 feet whereas California halibut might hang around piers in shallower water.  Use depth and fish finders to scout your terrain to find where they are hanging.

4.Bottom bounce

Be sure your bait or jigs are on the bottom.  Release line from the spool until it stops.  Then, raise and lower your rod tip to bounce the bait or jig just off the sand.  With so much line out you'll need a different hookset.  When you feel a tug slowly reel in the slack until you feel tension.  At that point, pull firmly to drive in the hook.

5.Best halibut baits

Squid, octopus, mackerel heads are among the very best.  Vertical jigging with smaller baits imitating sardines or other smaller bait fish works well, too.

6. Reposition until you find the fish

Cast around the boat and if you're not hooking up move and begin again.  

Halibut season is here, and the fish makes excellent table fare. Don’t miss out. Learn more about California halibut, as well as pacific halibut and if  you care to share I'm here!

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at