Understanding the Different Bait and Lures for Halibut
Using the right bait and lures at the end of your line is essential when it comes to catching ground fish like halibut at great depths.
Here’s the Eagle Nook Resort team’s round-up of the top halibut fishing baits and lures we recommend trying on one of our chartered halibut fishing trips on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
This post is for anyone who has ever wondered, “What bait works the best for pacific halibut?” If you’re brand new to halibut fishing, start with our guide to Fishing for Halibut in BC – and then book one of our unforgettable Vancouver Island fishing packages!
When it comes to catching halibut, live bait is best. Fortunately, halibut are not picky eaters, which leads to a wide variety of live bait to choose from. Here are some of the best halibut baits to use:
To halibut, salmon smells and tastes delicious! When the incredibly tough salmon skin is left on, salmon scraps are very durable, so they tend to stay on your line for quite a while. Any part of the salmon will do, especially the white-skinned belly meat, which is soft and easily shredded, making it easy for halibut to take a bite. Puncture the skin side of the salmon first using a circle hook. Then, puncture it once more through the flesh and back through the skin, leaving you with a double-threaded belly strip. The salmon will be on there so securely, you’ll need a knife to remove it!
Using salmon heads for halibut bait is a great way to use up every part of a salmon. Their strong scent can attract halibut from great distances. Small heads of Coho, Chinook, or Pink salmon are best. If the heads are too big, halibut might not be able to fit the whole thing in their mouths, which would make the bait less effective. Rig a salmon head to your sharpened circle hook by piercing the snout at the upper and lower lip so you’re essentially threading the mouth closed.
Squid is another great halibut bait – particularly when targeting larger fish. You can use either fresh or frozen squid, either whole or in pieces. Squid is a lot softer than salmon, so it does tend to get nabbed by critters other than your target species on the way down to the ocean floor. To prevent this, use two hooks in tandem, and add either thread or dental floss for reinforcement.
Octopus is a great halibut bait because it has a tough, rubbery texture that helps it stay firmly on your hook. It’s not as readily available as salmon, but it does the trick quite well! When using octopus as bait, it is important to hook the tentacles near the body to ensure the bait does not come loose. Double-hook the octopus as you would a salmon belly and that’s it! Be careful your octopus isn’t too big though, as this could lead to lots of nibbles but no bites.
Herring is irresistible to halibut, making it a good halibut bait. Large size herring are best, but the cost of large herring can start to add up. Keep in mind that herring is a soft fish, making it easy for non-target species to rip off your line on their way down to greet the halibut. When using herring as live bait, they are typically hooked through the mouth or nose and allowed to swim freely. You can also consider brining it in pure salt for a few days to harden it up or stuffing it in a bait bag.
One trick we have seen is the use of homemade bait bags in which softer live bait, such as herring or chopped fish scraps, is balled up inside of nylon or pieces of mesh produce bags from the grocery store. The bait bags are tied off with a thread and should be about the size of a golf ball.
Bait bags are an effective way to target halibut, and they can be used in both deep and shallow waters. They can be used alone, or they can be stuffed into a hoochy, where they will be concealed but still leave a strong scent trail. They can even be frozen for later use.
Halibut Bait Tips & Tricks
Halibut aren’t too picky about what type of live bait you use. In addition to the baits mentioned above, Pacific mackerel, Pacific grey cod, anchovies, sardines, clam necks, shrimp, prawns – you name it – can all be used. These bottom feeders have also been known to bite at baits that haven’t originated from the ocean, such as raw beef, pork, and chicken. Some anglers even use freezer-burnt fish and meat. Doing so is a great way to put otherwise inedible human food to good use!
To have the best halibut bait at the end of your line, always ensure:
- it’s rigged securely
- it puts off a good scent trail
- your line is weighted enough to get to the ocean floor with the bait intact.
If your bait is too soft or too small, not hooked properly, or your line is sinking too slowly, there’s a good chance your bait will get yanked off by other sea creatures like snails, starfish, crabs, and dogfish.
Likewise, if your bait is too big, such as a lengthy octopus tentacle (exceeding 8-10 inches) halibut can nibble away at it without actually clamping down on your hook.
Pro Tip: Not catching big enough fish? Try increasing your hooks to a slightly larger circle hook and using larger bait like salmon heads.
Best Halibut Lures
Some of the lures for catching salmon can be used for catching halibut, provided they are combined with live bait and don’t create too much movement or razzle dazzle in the water. (Halibut prefer calm waters and are more attracted to scents than they are flashy, jerky motions, so spoons and flashers aren’t recommended.)
Jigs work especially well for halibut because they are weighted. The lead weight (sinker) of the jig usually comes with a hook molded right into it – perfect for adding your live bait. The lead weight is sometimes covered with a soft rubber or silicone body and might come with an artificial fish head, sometimes tasseled, sometimes not, and are designed to mimic the appearance of small fish or squid. Jigs can be fished using a variety of methods, including by vertically jigging them along the bottom of the ocean.
Rite Angle Fishing Products and Gibbs Delta makes many excellent halibut jig lures. For example, the Rite Angle Double Glow Mexican Flag, Halibut Spin N Glow White, Double Glow Pink Skirt and from Gibbs the Gibbs Delta Mud Raker, Gibbs Delta Jigalu, Gibbs Delta Big Eye Glow Jig, and Gibbs Delta Bio X Scent are all great lures to start with.
There are thousands of jigs on the market, and thousands of ways to prepare your own jigs. For example, pipe jigs made of copper pipe are a fun DIY project. The pipe creates a bit of noise while emitting a subtle electrical charge that seems to attract fish.
Soft-bodied artificial squid are popular halibut lures – but these aren’t your average hoochies. They are actually much larger and come with additional features. Some to choose from include soft iron squid lures, which closely resemble real squid, and Fat Squids, which are soft plastic artificial squids that glow and are about the size of your palm! Because artificial squid is designed to mimic the appearance and movement of real squid, it is important to use the proper rigs and techniques to ensure the bait is presented in a natural way.
Pro Tip: Use a Ziploc bag to marinate your artificial squid in the scents of your live bait.
Soft plastic bodied Power Bait Grubs by Berkley are effective halibut lures because they are filled with scents and have specially designed crescent-shaped tails that wiggle just enough in the water to attract but not spook halibut. Eight-inch Grubs are recommended. These lures are biodegradable and available in more than a dozen colours.
Chartered Halibut Fishing in Barkley Sound, BC
During a chartered halibut fishing trip offered through Eagle Nook Resort, we provide you with a wide selection of halibut baits and lures, as well as everything else you’ll need to catch halibut on the West Coast of BC, including circle hooks and lead weights. You can also bring your own tackle with you if preferred. Check out our list of what to bring on our chartered fishing trips to learn more.
The world of halibut baits and lures can be an overwhelming place if you are just starting out with the sport. Halibut BC fishing charters like the ones we provide on the West Coast of Vancouver Island can be a great place to start. The passion and knowledge of our experienced guides serve as a great introduction to halibut fishing as well as salmon fishing.