Successful halibut fishing depends on many things, but a core element is the techniques and how well they are performed. A fantastic method for one halibut area may not be effective for another.

In previous posts I discuss halibut hot spots, setups, attractants, and even the migration of pacific halibut. Today I want to talk about halibut fishing techniques. Some popular, practical strategies for Pacific halibut are anchoring, drifting, and trolling.


Anchoring uses special equipment to reach the bottom of deep water. Commonly, spreader bars and bait are used. Following is a system of lowering the gear until contact is made with the bottom of the sea floor and then reeling up several feet to hang the bait just above the bottom. You want to avoid dragging your gear on the bottom.

Anglers then secure the rod in a holder and wait for action. If action is noticed on the rod, allow the fish some time to pull the bait away. Striking or pulling too soon can yank the bait out before the hook sets, especially if you are using circle hooks. With a circle hook, the hook will in essence hook itself. You can crank down on the drag gradually to help set the hook.

The places that are best to anchor are (obviously) the shallower spots where you will find halibut, like Port Angeles (e.g. Green Point, Humps, 31-36 Hole, Coyote Bank) and Port Townsend (Heins Bank, Eastern Bank, Partridge Bank). Even in these places, anglers need to have plenty of anchor rope (200+ feet) to be able to effectively anchor.

Note: Anchoring can be dangerous when not performed correctly. Practice with experienced anglers and follow knowledgeable tips if inexperienced.


Just as it sounds, drifting is to drift with the tide. Drifting is usually done in areas that are deep (obviously you cannot anchor). One thing that is critical when halibut fishing on the drift is keeping your lines perfectly straight up and down by using your engine(s) to back troll. Like anchoring, a splitter bar (also called spreader bar) or ganion rig can be used with bait. Other methods used in drifting rely on the type of bait used. Popular baits for Pacific halibut include:


  • Salmon bellies or heads
  • Cod
  • Octopus
  • Herring
  • Paddle tail swimbaits
  • Scented chum bags
  • Sabiki ring

My favorite bait out of the list above is probably herring (horse herring). I like to inject my herring with a special mixture of all sorts of oily scent ingredients, e.g. salmon bellies, salmon eggs, etc to get a real good oily substance. Or you can inject with Butt Juice or Halibut Nectar.


When people think of trolling they automatically think about salmon fishing. But trolling is arguably one of the easiest techniques for fishing Pacific halibut. Using fresh bait with a preferred flasher and a large hoochie works well. To perform trolling, lower your down rigger cannonball until contact is made at the bottom, allowing the gear to swing back and run near the bottom.

Trolling requires sand or gravel bottoms. Other types of sea floors can cause the gear to get hung up. Just like with blackmouth fishing it is good to bump the cannon ball against the bottom to get a halibuts attention.

trolling for halibut

Let’s Go Fishing!

Pacific halibut are great fish to catch for sport and food. Halibut eat just about anything and are relatively easy to fish depending on the conditions. Swimming in deep or shallow waters depends on the maturity of the fish and the current season of migration.

The continental slope is a typical settlement location, though migration routes are traveled annually. The Straits of Juan de Fuca and Washington, U.S., are two well-known locations during migration.

To best plan a successful Pacific halibut fishing trip, continue researching prime locations like Westport, WA, Neah Bay, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, and various areas in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. When understanding critical fish traits like migration, anglers can fish the most effectively for a high-catch season!

Hook ’em Deep!

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