FISHING THE WORLD’S LARGEST FLATFISH
As you may have read in a recent post, the WDFW announced additional halibut fishing days. So I wanted to write a post on Pacific halibut migration. And how the migration lines up to the the WDFW seasons. So here we go……
Alaska’s Right-eye Flounder
Pacific halibut is a popular fish for eating and fishing. Halibut meat is lean and finely textured, versatile for various cooking methods. Their considerable size makes them an attractive target for sports anglers. There’s nothing like it when a big flatty hits the deck!
With various restrictions and regulations in place for fishing Pacific halibut, determined anglers need to be knowledgeable about specific elements of Pacific halibut like traits and migration routes.
For successful fishing, these anglers must first equip their knowledge with an understanding of their prey’s nature.
Characteristics of Pacific Halibut
To understand prey, one must identify the target’s qualities. Where do the fish like to hide and feed? What are their preferred sources of food? Understanding the characteristics of Pacific halibut starts with knowing its habitats, behaviorism’s, and food sources.
Pacific halibut are geographically located in the Northern Pacific Ocean. Their breeding grounds and settlement areas congest near the shores of Alaska and British Columbia, primarily in the Gulf of Alaska or regions on the continental slope. However, Pacific halibut are found in other U.S. coastal waters, traveling as far down as Santa Barbara, California.
Preferred habitats range from 37- and 47-degrees Fahrenheit. A well-known location for these flatfish is near Kodiak Island. Additionally, popular migration destinations revolve around the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Washington state, U.S.
During the juvenile stages, Pacific halibut swim near the surface. After six months, they typically cruise the bottom of shallow water before venturing to deeper regions. As a flatfish, Pacific halibut swim sideways, making them right-eye flounder.
Adult fish typically stay in deep, cooler water, and show predatory, aggressive behaviors. Although they are not apex predators, Pacific halibut generally are not naturally hunted by other sea predators because of their large size.
The diet of Pacific halibut depends on the stage of development. Larval fishes feed on zooplankton. Juveniles develop more carnivorous taste, feasting on crustaceans and bottom-dwelling organisms.
Adult fish become more predatory and cannibalistic, eating almost anything they can swallow. Prey of adult Pacific halibut include:
- Younger Pacific Halibut
- Sand lance
Migration Patterns to Follow
Pacific halibuts are migratory creatures who travel annually. In winter, typically from November through December, halibuts move to deeper depths to spawn. The spring and summer seasons are when the fish usually return to shallow and coastal waters.
They migrate all along the western coast, stretching from Alaska to California. For the most efficient Pacific halibut fishing trips, consider visiting the locations listed below!
Alaska to the Straits of Juan de Fuca
Pacific halibut travel over one thousand miles from the continental slope to the Straits of Juan de Fuca when starting migration near Anchorage, AK. .
Local anglers come to the Straits for a shot for a big flatty. A fishing research team and many angler testimonies pinpointed top halibut fishing spots in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
- Neah Bay (near Cape Flattery)
- Lyre River (West of Port Angeles, north of Lake Crescent)
- Freshwater Bay (Between Lake Crescent and Port Angeles)
- Port Angeles (South of Vancouver Island)
- Various areas near Sequim (East of Port Angeles, West of Everett)
- Sekiu (East of Neah Bay)
Salmon University intricately details many of these hot fishing spots with good-to-know tips. For example, Neah Bay is a top-producing halibut area. Garbage Dump, the most popular area near Neah Bay, is to the west. Swiftsure, another preferred fishing area, is less than 15 miles west of Cape Flattery.
Pacific Halibut are observed in the Straits of Juan de Fuca all year round. However, the peak season usually ranges from February to June, slowly declining when August arrives until the next peak season.
According to Salmon University, Port Angeles is the “launching point” for catching optimal halibut in the eastern parts of the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Several prime fishing locations in Port Angeles include:
- Freshwater Bay
- The Humps
- 31-36 Bank
- The Rock Pile
- Coyote Bank
- Green Point
Sequim is a preferred location for fishing the inside Strait of Juan de Fuca. Excellent areas for anglers around Sequim include Dungeness bank, Partridge bank, and Smith Island. Sooke is also a promising halibut area with fishing availability all year (except January).
Additional Pacific Halibut Fishing Destinations in Washington
Westport, WA, is a popular fishing spot for Pacific halibut. This area is off the coast of the North Pacific Ocean, by Grays Harbor, where Pacific halibut travel all the way down the coast.
Further south is Ilwaco, WA, another offshore destination for halibut anglers. It is located by Cape Disappointment. Ilwaco does not disappoint with Pacific halibut fishing despite the name of surrounding locations. Numerous fishing charters are available for angler use.
- See my previous post on Iwaco halibut for a fishing hotspot
Let’s Go Fishing!
Pacific halibut are great fish to catch for sport and food. They eat just about anything and are not relatively difficult to fish. 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, Puget Sound, 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!