The #1 point you need to know to catch more halibut is that halibut are not picky eaters they will eat almost anything they can find, so with this knowledge the key to bait selection becomes less matching the hatch and more about finding something that will put out a good scent trail, and something that will stay firmly on your hook.
Salmon bellies are the #1 halibut bait. The meat of the salmon belly is high in fats and for humans this gives the fishy taste that some people find undesirable. Trimming the salmon belly and the pelvic fin off both sides of the salmon (cut approx 1 inch wide strip off) will make for a deadly bait and you will happily exchange a bit of fatty tasting salmon belly for a 40lb halibut.
Salmon skin is incredibly tough stuff. It will never come off your hook. This is what makes it the #1 halibut bait. Starting on the skin side, punture your circle hook through the skin. Then, puncture it back through the skin again so you have a double-punctured belly strip. This should never ever come off you will need a knife to remove it.
The final advantage of the salmon belly for halibut bait is that it is very flexible chunk of flesh. The way a circle hook works, the fish swallows it deep, then swims away, and the line causes the hook to be slowly dragged out of the fish’s belly, and then the geometry of the circle hook wedges in the exact corner of the fishes mouth every single time. A soft and pliable bait like salmon belly facilitates the perfect circle hookset.
Salmon heads, especially small ones from small coho, chinook, or pinks, make great halibut bait. They are very tough. Place the sharpened circle hook through the snout and go through the upper and lower lip so the mouth is held closed. This will never come off. There is one drawback to fishing a salmon head, while salmon belly is soft, salmon head is hard and it can have some negative effects on the hookset. Salmon heads have successfully caught many many halibut so do not abandon it all-together but if you find you are getting good hits where the fish peels out a bunch of line, but then spits the hook, it could two things, either the bites are from fish too small to get the whole head in their mouth, or, that the hookset is having issues. Before throwing out the salmon head I’d recommend try and sharpen your hooks.
Octopus is a great halibut bait for halibut fishing. Octopus is ideal becuase it is a tough and rubbery texture that will not come off the hook. If you can get octopus then do a double penetration with the hook as described for the salmon belly and you will be good to go. You should restrict your bait size to about 8-10 inches if it is really long then you might get nibbles but not hookups. I rate octopus lower than salmon bellies and salmon heads only because it is harder to come by. Most halibut anglers have access to lots of free salmon heads. If you are able to catch an octopus then go ahead and use a tentacle as your #1 weapon of choice. Another way I have caught octopus is to jig lingcod and in one spot I caught 8 lingcod 3 of which spat out freshly caught octopus.
Herring is a dynamite halibut bait that halibut love to eat. There are two downsides to herring, first the large size herring cost alot and you get fewer in a pack than the medium or smaller herring. Second, herring are generally soft and so they are prone to being stolen by sneaky halibut. For these reasons I rank herring the #4 bait. Although it is at the bottom of the list it is still an excellent choice as this list is the 4 best baits. There are many other baits options worse than herring out there but they did not make the 4 best.
What you need to do for herring is brine your halibut bait herring with the pure salt brine method on this website, for a few days, so that they become extremely hardened up. This will help keep them on the hooks. If you are going to use herring you may want to experiment with adding a herring trolling teaser head rig to your leader this will allow you to pin the head to the leader and get a spin frrom the currents, similar to trolling.
Herring is a great halibut bait to use right off the bat for halibut fishing, to start getting a good bait scent trail in the water and start attracting halibut to your spot. Use the Procure Magnum bait injector and fill the body cavity with scent. If you have successfully used herring to attract alot of halibut to your spot, and now you are trying to be selective and catch the fish in the right size class, what you should do is change your hooks to a slightly larger circle hook and larger bait like salmon heads, this will tend to preclude undersize fish and will also facilitate easy release of halibut that are too big or too small.
Here are some very cool halibut fishing videos from Youtube that I think you will enjoy.
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For more halibut fishing information check some of our other halibut fishing articles:
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Writing about sportfishing for salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfish, snapper, prawns, and crab, with tips and techniques to catch more fish by fine-tuning specific details.
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