Halibut Fishing – West Coast Style
On Hank’s BC halibut fishing charters, he uses three basic methods to fish for halibut:
- back trolling or power jigging
Trolling for Halibut
When we are trolling it is important to know the direction of the tide as you will be trolling either with the tide or going across the tide in order to allow your gear to stay on the bottom. Your speed should be no faster than 2 knots and no slower than 1.7 knots.
The gear we use can be the same as the gear that we use for salmon. I prefer using “Turds”, one side white and one side brown with a 42” tail behind the flasher. I prefer using old flashers as the ocean bottom is very hard on the them.
When you are hooking the rod to the down rigger, keep the flasher within 10-12′ back from the cannonball on the down riggers. When you let down the cannonballs, be careful not to let them down too fast or the flasher will come up and hook onto the down rigger line.
Stop the down rigger a few feet before you hit the bottom. Wait a few minutes and then lower the cannonball until it hits the bottom. Wait a few more minutes and then lower the cannonball again until it hits bottom. You may have to repeat this procedure 3-4 times depending on the speed of the tide. You want the cannonball bouncing on the ocean floor not dragging.
I also like to put lots of smelling gel on my hoochies. Sometimes while fishing like this, the halibut will take the hoochie and swim with you. If this happens, you will see the tip of your rod vibratiting. Other times, the halibut put on the brakes and go the other way, fast!
The ideal bottom that you are looking for when trolling is sand or gravel and should be no deeper than 210′.
Back Trolling or Power Jigging
The first thing we use is a spreader bar and I add a 2′ length of 200lb twine to the weight end of the spreader bar with a 2lb lead attached. On the hook end, I tie a 14” piece of 100lb test nylon line with a tandom hook set-up. On the hooks, I attach a 4” white scented saltwater grub which I also coat with scent gel. The reason I use 2′ of twine to the lead, is to keep the grub off the bottom.
The best time to use this style of fishing is at slack tide, either just before or after. If the tide is still moving, put your kicker motor in reverse. The goal is to keep your line straight up and down. You don’t have to jig, put the rods in the holders and the halibut will grab it.
It is important not to strike the fish, just reel fast. When you know the fish is on, take the rod out of the holder and do not allow any slack in the line. If you want to cover a little more ground, put the motor in neutral and you will drift, then put it back in reverse to fish that ground.
Anchoring for Halibut
You can also bait your hook but be prepared to catch some dogfish. This is the most standard way of fishing for halibut. You can fish any depth that you want with the appropriate weight.
Anchoring for halibut is my preferred method to fish. It can be boring while waiting for a bite but it is very productive!
The first thing you need is a good anchor, I prefer a Dansworth anchor. They are inexpensive and work well with 15-20′ of chain attached. You will also need 500′ of floating rope, so it doesn’t get caught in the propellor. You will also need a scotchman, a oneway anchor coupling system, 1 3/4” rope that is securely attached to the bow of the boat and can be hooked to the stern cleat. The anchor pulling system that I use is called Anchorlift, made in Oregon. For a scent box, I prefer a 1.5′ long 5” PVC tube with a screw off cap, with 3/4” holes drilled throughout the tube.
I anchor a 12” chain to the screw off cap with a quick release on the end. The quick release gets attached to my down rigger just above the cannonball. Some people use a 1/4” rope with a 10lb lead weight attached to the tube but I prefer my own method. All you need is a 10lb cannonball to take it down.
When you get to your fishing hole, (edges or holes), go upstream about 450′, release your anchor, let out 400′ of line and attach it to your bow rope, making sure that you have sufficient anchor line that you can attach to the back of the boat so you can retrieve your bow line. You should be sitting just upstream from your desired location. Bait like to hide on the opposite side of the ledge to stay out of the current and this is where the halibut will be.
Once you are located on the right spot, lower your bait tube so it’s just off the bottom and is in the midship of your boat. I personally like to fish with 2 rods. I bait one with squid and pilchard and the other with salmon belly. I will use 1.5lb of weight on one and 2lb of weight on the other, with the ball just bouncing on the bottom. The ideal scope of your anchor line is 3 to 1, although 2 to 1 will work. Eg: with 500′ of rope you are fishing no deeper than 250′. This method of fishing will bring in the fish from about 1/2 a mile away. Then, it’s sit back and wait…. If I haven’t got a fish in an hour and a half, I will lift my anchor and move.
Because of the new size regulations, it is best to use circle hooks when fishing this way. If you get a fish over 58lbs, you will be able to release them without causing any damage. In order for a circle hook to work properly, the tension on the reel has to be light, so when the halibut grabs the bait, he can swim away without too much resistance. If you strike the fish, the hook will pull out of it’s mouth. The fish has to hook himself, so when he is pulling out line, you need to tighten the drag. This will cause the hook to come up from it’s stomach and hook the lip. A circle hook will always catch the halibut in the lip.
I look forward to sharing my experience and techniques with you!
Tight lines and good fishing!