Halibut Fishing on Vancouver Island
by Alan Crow

There are a variety of methods to fish for halibut, some more labour intensive than others. Some anglers anchor on their favourite spot and drop bait to the bottom, put the rod in the holder and wait. Others make repeated drifts using the tide to cover the grounds. Another productive way to halibut fish is to troll, slowly. This works best when one angler drives the boat and the other bounces bottom with the downrigger balls. Trolling works best in most conditions.
Halibut have an excellent sense of smell, and they are massive predators, and not scavengers. Fresh baits and live baits are needed. Jigging a few herring in the Gorge and carefully freezing them or using them fresh is a good idea. Halibut will also take artificial dropped in front of them: Norwegian cod jigs, large stingsildas and rubber bodied jigs. Still fishing at anchor, with fresh herring or octopus, works well because halibut will move substantial distances to come to a bait. When a group of still fishermen congregate in a good area someone is definitely going to get lucky. Drifting and still fishing are best done with a spreader bar to prevent your gear from tangling. I just use a homemade coat hanger rig and a Peetz rod and reel with wire line. Wire fishes deeper, and has no stretch for good hook setting. Trollers can use a flasher and large herring or anchovy. Remember to pin your gear very close to your weight, and constantly bounce bottom. Trolling works best off flat bottom and beach areas and is a popular between the Sooke bluffs and Port Renfrew area. Some halibut anglers plug cut fish with lighter set-ups. A good heavy leader should be used because halibut have teeth that easily file leaders.
There are lots of ways to land a halibut once youíve hooked one. They are famous for powerful, unstoppable runs, they always come up hanging straight up and down, head first. Smaller fish 20 to 60 lb. can be netted with a good net or gaffed behind eyes, in the gill plate area. A good whack just behind the eyes can incapacitate them. Larger fish are best handled with a spear device. Peetz manufactures one, and it comes with instructions. When your fish is secured let it thrash until you know itís exhausted. Large halibut can be dangerous, especially in smaller boats, in close quarters. Just make sure everything in your boat is stowed, not cluttered. Boating a large fish is a real adventure; common sense is your best ally.
In southern waters halibut fishing becomes very frustrating once the dogfish start to show up in late May or early June. Now is a good opportunity to angle for these excellent eating fish between our winter chinook and summer chinook fisheries. You will fill your freezer for awhile. Good luck!
 
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