Fishing for Halibut in BC
Wondering when and where to head out halibut fishing in BC? Our guides at Eagle Nook Resort have you covered. Check out our latest blog post for some helpful tips and tricks for making your next halibut fishing excursion a huge success.
What does a Halibut Look Like?
First off, how do you even know when you’ve got a halibut on the end of your line? You won’t be able to confuse the halibut at the end of your line for any other fish. Halibut are a distinctive-looking flatfish that are brownish on one side, and whiteish on the other.
Because halibut swim sideways, the white side is considered the underbelly side, or bottom, and the brown side is the top side, camouflaging the halibut with the sea bed. Halibut have an elongated, almost diamond-shaped body and a broad tail. They can grow to be enormous, weighing up to hundreds of pounds each. Because they are flat, both of a halibut’s eyes sit on the top side (the brown side) of its face, giving its face a bit of a lopsided, goofy appearance.
Halibut Season in BC
The best time for halibut fishing in BC waters are the spring and summer months, or more specifically, between March and November. Although halibut can be caught year-round in BC, the spring and summer months provide the most consistent results, and the most comfortable conditions for spending days out in the water!
If you’re planning on booking a halibut charter, their peak operational period will align with the summer months. At Eagle Nook Resort, our fishing package rates are in effect from early June to early September.
Best Places to Catch Halibut in BC
For your best chance to catch a halibut in BC waters, head out to Vancouver Island’s West Coast (the Tofino, Ucluelet, Barkley Sound side of the island), or the northern tip of the Island near Port Hardy. Halibut are also found all around the central and northern BC coast. Avoid areas near the lower mainland and south Vancouver Island, where halibut numbers are considerably smaller.
The biggest halibut in BC can be found near Haida Gwaii, or the Queen Charlotte Islands, north of Vancouver Island. However, some of these fish are so big, you’re not legally allowed to keep them!
Your Eagle Nook guides will be able to make sure your Halibut is legal to keep.
If you do want more info, you can find current Fishing Notices related to halibut fishing through the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website.
Halibut Limits and Sizes
As per notice from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, effective April 1, 2019 until further notice, the maximum length for the halibut you can catch and keep in British Columbia is 126 cm (head-on), and the daily limit for halibut is one (1). The possession limit for halibut is either of:
- one (1) halibut measuring 90 cm to 126 cm in length (head-on), OR
- two (2) halibut, each measuring under 90 cm in length (head-on).
More information on halibut fishing regulations can be found in the Department of Fisheries & Oceans BC Sport Fishing Guide. When you’re on a chartered fishing trip, your fishing guide will help you with all of these regulations.
Why are there size restrictions for halibut?
Huge halibut are considered ‘catch and release’. Generally speaking, halibut that exceeds the size restrictions are female breeders, helping to sustain halibut populations. These halibut are usually 100 lbs or more – surely exceeding the 126-cm size limit.
Fortunately, you’re not missing much by tossing those large halibut back into the ocean, since they are known to be higher in mercury, and be harder to cook. By regulating the size of the fish we are allowed to keep, halibut populations aren’t as threatened by overharvesting, leaving us all with enough tasty fish to eat.
How to Catch a Halibut
When it comes to fishing for halibut, it’s all about combining the right area with the right bait.
The best seafloor topography for halibut fishing is an elevated, sandy bottom with nearby reefs. Avoid areas with deep holes or dips in the ocean floor. Halibut hang out near the bottom of the ocean at a depth of around 40-80 feet (12 –24 m) or more. Your guide at Eagle Nook Resort will take you to the best-known spots around Vancouver Island for halibut fishing. You can either drift with the tide or anchor the boat, as long as you keep your line straight down and loaded with live bait.
As for the best halibut bait, halibut aren’t too picky. Live bait such as herring, salmon or mackerel heads and guts, octopus, cod, crab or live squid are most commonly recommended for halibut fishing. Artificial lures and jigs can also be used. Use combinations of bright colour, luminescence, and movement down below, but avoid anything too jerky. During a chartered fishing trip, a variety of bait and tackle will be provided for you. And remember, the more people you invite on your trip, the more bait below, which hopefully equals more bites for all!
Dropping Your Line
Drop your baited, weighted line all the way to the bottom of the ocean floor and then ease up a bit. Wait for a bite for at least 30 seconds before repositioning your line some more by moving it up and down slightly, or side to side gently. The slight movement of the bait will help spread its scent. If nothing’s biting, give it at least a dozen tries before moving on to another position.
When you do eventually get a bite, don’t pull up to set the hook right away, as you risk losing the fish. Instead, wait a few seconds to allow the halibut to eat the bait, while you let your line lower into the water until the hook is set by the halibut’s own doing. After that, halibut are easy enough to reel up to the surface of the water – just be gentle and don’t rush.
A Note on Bringing Your Halibut Home with You
If you’re fishing for halibut in Canada and would like to transport your halibut (or salmon) outside of the country, you can transport the fish to the United States without hassle. There is no special paperwork required, and at Eagle Nook Resort, we include in our packages the portioning, filleting and vacuum packing of your fish. We also provide you with an airline-approved cooler to help keep your fish stay fresh and frozen on your ride home. If you are traveling somewhere outside of the US and Canada, check your destination country’s regulations to see if vacuum-packed frozen fish is allowable.
At Eagle Nook Resort, we provide you with the best high end rods, reels, tackle and bait for catching halibut in BC. If you’re relatively new to halibut fishing, our guides will take the guesswork out of what equipment to use. If you’re a seasoned angler, we’d also love to hear about some of the methods you have found successful. Learn more about what’s included in our Luxury Fishing Packages or call us at 604-357-3361 for any questions, bookings, or inquiries.