Category Archives: Halibut

About Halibut

A halibut is a type of flatfish from
the family of the right-eye flounders (Pleuronectidae).
This name is believed to be derived from Dutch heilbot. Halibut live in both the North Pacific and
the North Atlantic oceans and are highly regarded food fish.

The Ladies show off their catch of halibut.

Physical Characteristics of The Halibut Fish

The Halibut is the largest of all flat fish, with an average weight of about 25 lb – 30 lb,
they can grow to be as much as 600 lbs. The Halibut is blackish-grey on the top side and off-white on the underbelly
side. When the Halibut is born the eyes are on both sides of its head so it has
to swim like a salmon. After about 6 months one eye will migrate to the other side of its head, making
it look more like the flounder. This happens at the same time that the stationary eyed side begins to develop
a blackish-grey pigment while the other side remains white. This disguises a
halibut from above (blending with the ocean floor) and from below (blending into
the light from the sky).

Diet

Halibut feed on almost any animal they can fit
in their mouths. Animals found in their stomachs include sand lamce, octopus,
crab, salmon, hermit crabs, lamprey, sculpin, cod, pollock, herring and flounder.
Halibut can be found at depths as shallow as a few meters to hundreds of meters
deep, and although they spend most of their time near the bottom, halibut will
move up in the water
column to feed. In most ecosystems the halibut is near the top of the marine
food chain. In the North Pacific the only common predators of halibut are the
sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), the orca
whale (Orcinus orca), and the salmon
shark (Lamna ditropis).

Halibut fishery

Commercial halibut fishery in the North Pacific dates to the late 19th century and today is one of the largest
and most lucrative fisheries in the region. In Canadian and U.S. waters of the
North Pacific, halibut are taken by longline,
using chunks of octopus (”devilfish”) or other bait on circle hooks
attached at regular intervals to a weighted line that can extend for several
miles across the bottom. Typically the vessel
hauls gear after several hours up to a day has passed.

Careful international management
of Pacific halibut is necessary, as the species occupies the waters of the United
States, Canada, Russia, and possibly Japan (known to the Japanese as Ohyo), and is
a slow-maturing fish. Halibut do not reproduce until age eight, when they are approximately 30 inches (76 cm) long, so commercial
capture of fish below this length is an unsustainable practice and is against
U.S. and Canadian regulations. Halibut fishing in the Pacific is managed by the
International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC).

For most of its modern duration, commercial halibut fishery operated as a derby-style fishery where regulators
declared time slots when fishing was open (typically 24-48 hours at a time) and
fisherman raced to catch as many pounds as they could within that window. This
approach accommodated unlimited participation in the fishery while allowing regulators
to control the quantity of fish caught annually by controlling the number and
timing of openings. The approach frequently led to unsafe fishing as openings
necessarily set in advance and fisherman felt compelled economically to leave
port virtually regardless of the weather. The approach also provided fresh halibut
to the markets for only several weeks each year.

In 1995, regulators in the United States implemented a quota-based fishery by allocating individual
fishing quotas (IFQs) to existing fishery participants based on each vessel’s
documented historical catch. IFQs grant holders a specific proportion of each
year’s total allowable catch (TAC) as determined by regulators and can be fished
at any time during the 9-month open season. The IFQ system improved both the
safety of the fishery and the quality of the product by providing a stable flow
of fresh halibut to the marketplace. Critics of the program suggest that, since
IFQs are a saleable commodity and the fish a public resource, the IFQ system
gave a public resource to the private sector. Would-be fisherman who were not
part of the initial IFQ allocation are also critical of the program saying that
the capital costs to fishery entry are now too high.

There is also a significant sport fishery in Alaska and British
Columbia where halibut are a prized game and food fish. Sport fisherman use
large rods and reels with line weights from 80 to 150 pound test, and often bait
with herring, large jigs, or even whole salmon heads. Halibut are very strong,
thus in both commercial and sport fisheries large halibut (over 50 to 100 pounds
(20 to 50 kg)) are often shot or otherwise subdued before they are brought onto
the boat. The sport fishery in Alaska is one of the key elements to the state’s
summer tourism economy. Halibut are typically broiled, deep fat fried or lightly
grilled while fresh. The fillets can also be smoked but this method is more difficult
with halibut meat than it is with salmon, due to the ultra-low fat content of
halibut. Eaten fresh, the meat has a very clean taste and requires little seasoning.
Halibut is also noted for its very dense and firm texture, almost more akin to
chicken.

Pacific Ocean Halibut

Halibut have been an important food source to Native
Americans and Canadian First Nations for thousands of years and continue to be a key element to many coastal
subsistence economies. The management of the halibut resource to accommodate
the competing interests of commercial, sport, and subsistence users is a contentious
current issue.

The Atlantic Fishery of halibut has been extremely depleted through
overfishing to such an extent that it may possibly be declared an endangered
species. According to Seafood
Watch, Atlantic halibut is currently on the list of fish that American consumers,
who are sustainability minded, should avoid. Almost all halibut now bought on
the East coast are now Pacific halibut.

Species commonly known as “halibut”

  1. Family Carangidae (jack family, not a flatfish)
  2. Australian halibut, Parastromateus niger
  3. Family Paralichthyidae
  4. California halibut, Paralichthys californicus
  5. Bastard halibut, Paralichthys olivaceus
  6. Family Pleuronectidae
  7. Arrowtooth halibut, Atheresthes evermanni
  8. Shotted halibut, Eopsetta grigorjewi
  9. Atlantic halibut, Hippoglossus hippoglossus
  10. Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis
  11. Greenland halibut, Reinhardtius hippoglossoides
  12. Spotted halibut, Verasper variegatus
  13. Family Psettodidae
  14. Indian halibut

References

Clover, Charles. 2004. The End of the Line: How overfishing is changing
the world and what we eat
. Ebury Press, London.
ISBN 0-09-189780-7

All text is available under the terms of the GNUFree Documentation License.

The Commercial Halibut Industry

Pacific halibut commercial fishing began in the late 1880s with the movement
of the Atlantic halibut fleet to the Pacific to pursue the large stocks found along the coast of Washington and Vancouver Island. From a small fishery off Cape Flattery,WA and the southern end of Vancouver Island, B.C., it expanded rapidly in protected inside waters, and by 1910, extended some 700 miles northward to Cape Spencer in southeastern Alaska. Subsequent expansion extended the fishery both south and north and out to the offshore banks throughout the known range of halibut on the American side of the Pacific, from northern California to Bering Sea, a
distance of over 2,000 miles.

By 1914 there were efforts to reduce the effort as well as the length of the
season. The halibut industry petitioned to both governments to manage and control
the fishery. Efforts to consummate a treaty in 1919 were unsuccessful, but the
halibut industry persisted in advocating international control. In 1922, another convention was drafted that excluded the sensitive provisions of port-use and tariffs, and Canada and the United States signed the Convention for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean on March 2, 1923. The treaty of 1923 was also noteworthy in that it was the first treaty to be
concluded anywhere for the conservation of a depleted deep-sea fishery.

The Convention went into effect on exchange of ratifications on October 23,
1924. It provided for a 3- month closed season during the winter and for regations
concerning halibut caught incidentally during the closed season. The Convention
also created an International Fisheries Commission of four members. Each country
was to pay the expenses of its two Commissioners, and expenses of the Commission
and staff were to be shared equally by the contracting parties. The Commission
was charged with studying the life history of halibut and with recommending regulations for the preservation of the resource and development of the fishery. Subsequent
treaties in 1930, 1937, and 1953, as well as a 1979 protocol to the
convention, left much of the original intent and wording in effect.

Throughout the first four decades of the halibut fishery, the IPHC managed
the length of season to control the effort, and the quotas, within the fishery.
In 1975 the season was 125 days long, but as improving fisheries stock and price
conditions increased effort and demand, the season shrank to nearly 25 days by
1985. Nearly a decade later in 1994 the season had shrunk to fewer than three days for a majority of the U.S. fishery.

In 1991 the Canadian government adopted individual vessel quotas (IVQ) to
manage the fishery. Subsequent to this, in 1995, the U.S. adopted the individual
fishing quota (IFQ) system. The commercial halibut fishery is now allocated to
vessels and individuals respectively and the resulting fishery is currently managed
on a nearly nine-month season. The results of this change in the fishery are
positive and have resulted in a) increased value for the fishery, b) less wastage,
and c) increased safety for the coast-wide fleet.

International Pacific Halibut Commission
The Commission, circa 1940 Biological data collection for stock assessment purposes, circa 1970

Barkley Adventure Station thanks the International Pacific Halibut Commission
for this article.

A Remarkable Variety of Fishing in Ucluelet BC

Every one likes fresh dungeness crab, right?

Our fishing season is upon us in BC. With our first set of bookings completed, good news.

Salmon Fishing is starting to pick up trolling around Great Bear, Meares Bluff, Austin Island, and Swale Rock.

Halibut Fishing off of Sail Reef and Long Beach are producing the odd Big Halibut (60 lbs plus).

Ling Cod Fishing opened today and there are lots of Rock Cod to be caught South East of Mara Rock and around the Red Can and George Fraser Islands.

Crab Fishing in Ucluelet harbour is fantastic averaging 4-6 big keeper Dunganesse Crab per 8 hour soak.

Prawn Fishing off Capstan Island and Prideaux Island is producing between 2 dozen and 4 dozen Prawns per trap for an overnight soak.

The Shellfish Ban has been lifted for portions of Barkley Sound and there is an abundance of Oysters, and Clams if you have the energy to dig them, around Toquart Bay and the Stopper Islands.

All this from the tiny fishing Villiage of Ucluelet off the West Coast of Vancouver Island, BC.

Grab your gear, its time to go fishing, remember to buy a new license, your one from last year expired at the end of March, and don’t forget your Salmon tag.

Fishing Tips & Techniques

Fishing is a matter of skill, equipment, location and luck. Here are some great fishing tips and techniques. Getting out on the water with Dave and his crew is an opportunity to fish for the big ones and learn some new tricks.

Salmon Fishing Techniques

The most common method for fishing salmon off the west coast of Vancouver Island is trolling. Usually a flasher and a hootchie (octopus or cuttlefish are two very popular varieties) are utilized but not always, spoons or bait with or without flasher are also very productive.

Bait vs. Artificial Lures

There is a constant debate about bait vs. artificial lures when it comes to fishing a variety of species of salt and fresh water fish, not only salmon.  I use a reality simple rule of thumb.  The more experienced you are as an angler the more bait you can effectively fish.  If you are just starting out, stay away from the bait until you get all the bugs worked out.  There is nothing more frustrating than spending all day fighting with your bait, trying to get the right roll, strikes and misses, just to see the guy next to you at the dock come in with a boat full of fish when he or she was pulling hootchies all day.

Trolling Speed

As a general rule 2.5 to 3.5 kts is a good starting speed for trolling salmon, each different species of salmon can be targeted to a certain degree by varying your speed. For example when you are fishing for Coho salmon vs. Chinook salmon you tend to hook more Coho salmon while trolling faster, and more Chinook salmon when trolling slower.

Colour Patterns

Two very popular Colour patterns for trolling Salmon on the west coast off of Tofino and Ucluelet are a white colour with a purple haze, and a green and white pattern, every day conditions are a little bit different so shades and patterns change but this is a good starting point. Of course if the water is crystal clear, a darker lure should be used and vice versa, if the water is murky, brighter is usually better.

One of the most exciting way’s to catch big Chinook salmon is to troll using big 6” and 7” plugs, a light blue and silver colour scheme works well, as does the light rainbow pattern. No flasher for drag, just you and a smiley (smiley is a 25 lb plus Chinook salmon) on a single action rod and reel, what a rush.

Fishing Tip – Make sure that…

Probably the easiest and yet the most commonly overlooked fishing tip I can offer is razor sharp hooks, you will consistently catch more salmon and more halibut while fishing, if your hooks are super sharp.  I know this sounds simple, but how often do you sharpen your hooks?  I hit mine every time they come out of the water.

More Articles on Salmon Fishing Techniques by Other Authors

1) Fishing BC Salmon with Spoons by Wayne Moss
2) History of Tomic Lures
3) Fishing BC Salmon with Spoons – Another Viewpoint
4) Fishing BC Salmon with Plugs
5) Fishing BC Salmon with Hootchies

Halibut Fishing Techniques

The two most commonly used techniques for fishing Halibut are trolling, pretty much the same method used for fishing salmon, and Jigging.

Trolling

The basics are the same but you want to drag your cannon balls as close to the bottom as possible without loosing them, and a big green and glow cuttlefish pulled behind any variety of flasher should work well.

As a general rule 1.5 to 2.5 kts is a good starting speed for trolling halibut, it is a good idea to use a little heavier trolling gear when trolling for halibut vs. trolling for salmon, I use 40 lb mainline and 70 lb tails for Halibut compared to 30 lb mainline and 40 lb tails for Salmon.

Jigging

The other popular method for fishing Halibut is jigging. Find the spot that you want, drop down your spreader bars and bait, or grubs, drift and real in fish.  A spreader bar is just that, an “L” shaped metal rod that separates your bait from your lead.  Usually a one to three pound lead ball is clipped onto the short end of the spreader bar, a 18” to 36” leader is then attached to the long end of the spreader bar, and the line is attached where the long and short end meet. Power grubs are a very productive bait it herring are attracting too many dogfish.

Unlike salmon, which are visual feeders, Halibut are a sensory feeder that relies on its sense of smell.  A scent trail in the water is an excellent idea as long as you can stay away from dogfish.   Many different types of rods and reels are available on the market today, I recommend a 60-80 lb braided style of line with a medium heavy 7ft to 8 ft rod, combined with a level wind reel with a 3-4 to 1 ratio.

Probably the easiest and yet the most commonly overlooked fishing tip I can offer is razor sharp hooks, you will consistently catch more salmon and more halibut while fishing, if your hooks are super sharp.  I know this sounds simple, but how often do you sharpen your hooks?  I hit mine every time they come out of the water.

General Fishing Tips

Find general fishing articles with some great tips in the articles below.

1) Sharp Hooks for Fishing BC Salmon and Pacific Halibut
2) Fishing BC with Flashers

Salmon & Halibut Fishing in Ucluelet

Fishing the prestigious waters of the Pacific North West offers every angler the opportunity to land fish every day regardless of skill level. 20 to 40 fish a day, or more, are commonly hooked so a novice angler has the ability to advance their skill, and the experienced angler can choose optimum fish for retention.

Halibut Fishing in Ucluelet, BCThe usual destination for prime Halibut and Salmon fishing is Laperouse Bank approx 18 – 25 miles offshore south of Ucluelet. This upwelling provides an ideal habitat for all the different species of feed that the Pacific Salmon and Pacific Halibut consume as part of their diet. (krill, herring, pilchard, needlefish, etc.). The annual migrations of both Salmon and Halibut ensure that we have every sports fishing opportunity, and our geographical location provides a season that lasts throughout the year and peaks from May through September. Non-stop action ensures Ucluelet as an optimum fishing destination, one of the best in the world, successful catch limits of Halibut and Chinook Salmon are normal for a 2 – 3 day fishing adventure.

On board our fully equipped 38 ft. charter vessel, electric downriggers are most commonly used to troll for Chinook and Coho Salmon, our wide selection of terminal tackle allows you the angler to choose whether to fish with single action knuckle busters, a personal favorite, or level wind reels. Various methods are used to fish Halibut depending on sea conditions and area, Spreader bars with bait is the most common, but trolling Halibut can also be very effective.

Daily fishing trips from Ucluelet usually depart at 5 o’clock am and last for 8 – 10 hours depending on how many people are on board. Remember limits are quite common so don’t forget a cooler. (we recommend a 100 quart cooler plus)

Join us for a fishing experience of a lifetime. If you have any further questions or comments don’t hesitate to contact us, and any one of our friendly staff will be glad to help you:

250-266-0151 or via e-mail; barkleyadventurestation@hotmail.com

A little background information on the sports fish most highly sought by anglers.

Chinook Salmon

Chinook live from three to seven years, and weigh up to 80 pounds. Also known as Springs or Kings, they are the most famous game salmon sought by sport fishers.

Chinook can be identified by their small eye, black gums at the base of their teeth, long black spots along their back and tail. While in salt water, the Chinook has a dark back with a greenish-blue sheen. As it begins the journey back toward its spawning ground, its colour darkens and it develops a reddish hue around the fins and belly. The teeth of adult spawning males become enlarged and the snout develops into a hook.

Chinook head for sea within a few months after emerging from their gravel nest although some have been known to remain in their home stream up to two years. Spawning Chinook vary in age – anywhere from two to eight years.

In the sea, Chinook feed on large zooplankton, herring, sand lance and many other fish.

Coho Salmon

Coho live three years, and weigh up to 23 pounds. Prized by both commercial and sports fishers, they are also known as Silvers or Bluebacks.

Coho can be identified by the whiteness at the base of their teeth with black at the edge of their gums. They have spots on their upper lobe, as should be a silver colour next to the caudal, which is thicker than in other species.

Coho are the most widely dispersed of any of the five species of salmon and our found in most coastal streams in British Colombia and in many streams from California to Alaska but the majority are found from the Cook Inlet to the Colombia River.

Most Coho prefer warm water and stay close to the coast often moving south in the fall and winter months. For the first year Coho spend in the Ocean they mainly feed on sand lance, herring, crab larvae and krill.

Pacific Halibut

Its elongate, slender, compressed body recognizes this fish. The mouth is large and has well developed teeth on both sides of the jaws. The halibut is dark brown on its eyed side and irregularly blotched with a lighter white on its blind side. The maximum length of the male is 4 feet 7 inches; the female, 8 feet 9 inches.

The halibut is very abundant along the Pacific shores of Canada and ranges from Southern California to the Bering Sea, occurring from very shallow waters to up to 600 fathoms.

Spawning takes place from November to January in depths of 150 to 225 fathoms. A large female of 140 pounds may lay as many as 2 700 000 eggs which will drift into shallower waters where the young fish will settle in bays and inshore banks. The main food consists of fish, crabs, clams, squids and other invertebrates