All About Halibut Fishing in BC


One of the most common inquiries we get is where is the best halibut fishing in British Columbia. I’ve always enjoyed halibut fishing and love eating freshly caught BC halibut, so here’s everything you need to know about halibut fishing in BC…

Where’s the best place to catch halibut in BC?

Halibut are found on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the northern tip of Vancouver Island, the central BC coast and the northern BC coast, including Haida Gwaii. They are not found in any targetable numbers in the southern waters of BC and not around Vancouver. If anyone is offering halibut fishing on a Vancouver day charter be very skeptical. If you’re planning a BC fishing trip to specifically target halibut we’d suggest a trip to Tofino on Vancouver Island’s central west coast or Port Hardy on Vancouver Island’s northern tip.

For those willing to venture a bit further, and want some bigger fish and better fishing, than there is no better area for halibut fishing than Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, a series of islands off of BC’s northern coast. This is where you’ll find the biggest halibut in British Columbia. The season here is mid May to mid September and bottom fishing is good during that entire period. Try Langara Island Lodge if you’d like to access this area on an all-inclusive fishing trip.

When is the best time for halibut fishing in BC?

Generally speaking Spring & Summer months offer the most consistent BC halibut fishing, but halibut are caught all year-round in BC.  Fishing in the Summer months offers the most pleasant experience, as any other time of the year weather and water conditions on the BC coast aren’t usually favourable, and certainly not on the unprotected areas of west coast Vancouver Island or the northern coast. Also, most charter operators on Vancouver Island stop operating from late Fall to late Spring each year. Keep in mind, recreational halibut fishing can see mandated closures, for instance in 2017 recreation halibut fishing was closed on September 6th for the remainder of the year.

Couple of nice turkey halibut on the dock at Langara Island. The slang ‘turkey’ refers to halibut in the 25+ pound range. Smaller halibut, around 10 pounds are called chickens!

What is the halibut quota in British Columbia?

As of writing this post (December 9/17), the halibut quota in British Columbia is at a two halibut possession. You can only catch one halibut per day, but you can have possession of two. That just means you can’t keep two halibut in one day. It is important to know the BC halibut size limits. You can keep two halibut, but only one of them can be over 83 centimetres but no greater than 133 centimetres. They have to be measured properly and marked immediately on your licenses, for more information on halibut fishing regulations please visit the Department of Fisheries & Oceans BC Sport Fishing Guide. You can also download the BC Fishing App, a great tool for saltwater fishing information in BC.

Why can’t we keep big halibut anymore?

Even before size regulations where put into place in British Columbia, the atmosphere around halibut fishing was changing. The glory photos of huge halibut hanging on scales simply aren’t cool.  Why, aren’t all big fish cool you ask?  Well they are, but not when they’re dead. We can still catch big BC halibut, but to keep them really isn’t very smart. First off, most of the biggest halibut, 100 pounds or more, are female breeders, sustaining the population. Secondly, big halibut don’t usually taste very good, they can have worms in their meat, have higher mercury levels and are usually hard to cook. The current size restrictions allow for retention of nice eating sized halibut.

Can halibut caught in BC be shipped out of Canada?

If you’d like to transport your sport caught halibut or salmon back to the United States after your trip you can do so without issue. No special paperwork is needed, you can travel with your fish or have it sent home through a cannery.  St. Jean’s Cannery services most of the fishing lodge in British Columbia and will ship your fish directly to your door. If you are traveling internationally, elsewhere than the US, it is best to check with your country’s regulations to see if vacuum packed frozen fish can be brought home with you.

Generally speaking Spring & Summer months offer the most consistent BC halibut fishing, but halibut are caught all year-round in BC.  Fishing in the Summer months offers the most pleasant experience, as any other time of the year weather and water conditions on the BC coast aren’t usually favourable, and certainly not on the unprotected areas of west coast Vancouver Island or the northern coast. Also, most charter operators on Vancouver Island stop operating from late Fall to late Spring each year. Keep in mind, recreational halibut fishing can see mandated closures, for instance in 2017 recreational  halibut fishing was closed on September 6th for the remainder of the year.

What’s the best way to catch halibut?

Halibut fishing is quite a bit more technical than simply bobbing around. A good halibut guide will be fishing bottom structure, more than likely an elevated sand bottom with some reefs nearby. It’s important to be fishing the right tides, not all tides are amendable to fishing certainly areas. Guides will know what the tides are doing and start drifting so to target a specific area along that drift. You can also anchor for halibut, dropping an anchor and holding a spot, this is easily the most effective method for catching halibut. If you’re drifting you want to keep lines straight up and down, a good guide will be backing the boat into the tide or wind to slow your drift. If you’re lines are at 45 degree angles you fishin’ guide isn’t doing his job!

There’s lots of bait and scents, lures and jigs you can use for halibut fishing, but I’ve always found that the area you fish and the way you cover it, is much more important than what you’re using in terms of bait.  If fishing smaller chicken halibut, in the 10-15 pound range, the P-Line Halibut Drop Jig is a personal favourite. For bigger halibut I’ll run a 24 ounce jig head with a neon skirt and a piece of octopus. Halibut, and all other bottom fishing, absolutely love octopus and you’re hard pressed to find a better halibut fishing bait than an octopus.

Know the bottom structure, fish a specific area, keep your lines down and having the right bait are key components to a successful day halibut fishing.

This halibut was over 100 pounds, to big to keep. We could see that it was well beyond the 133 centimetre maximum and just guesstimated the weight before releasing it.

 


About the Author

Yos Gladstone is the owner operator of Chromer Sport Fishing, a guiding company and booking agency based in British Columbia, Canada. A full-time salmon & steelhead guide, Yos spends 200+ days a year on the water fishing, guiding and hosting trips.

Instagram | Facebook | Email

Please follow and like us: