4 Best Live Bait Options For Halibut

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering my 4 best live bait options for Halibut to chew on this year. Now I have to admit to being a traditional bait user for most of my fishing life as I like to find a good spot and then see what I can attract. Of course there is maybe not the excitement of attracting and working a fish as there is with lures, however it can be just as much fun for sure.

However, when it comes to Halibut and their feeding habits, they are not a fish that flies around the waterways chasing fast moving live bait and lures. And of course there are other aspects to it such as how they find their food as well matching the bait to the location and presenting it in a manner that will make it attractive to them as well.

So let’s check out some good live bait options for Halibut below…

What is Livebait?

For the purposes of this post I am going to give the name live bait to anything that is, or has at some point been alive (often referred to as ‘natural bait’). This means that it can actually be alive (often kept in a live bait well for example), fresh but dead or even frozen. This is opposed to lures, which are artificial creations designed to mimic live bait.

Obviously the type you choose will vary based on local conditions however when it comes to using live bait, I would stick to the following rules:

  1. Use local bait if possible – Halilbut are generally found in deep ocean waters areas such as on hard sand or gravel, usually in deeper trenches beside a weed bed or reef. It is best to find out what else lives there as well
  2. They like to sit – This is a species that doesn’t tend to move around a real lot so something that is either within, or will move into their location is a good choice.
  3. Go to a local bait shop – In most cases, the local bait shop will sell bait that is good for local conditions. If in doubt, ask the shop keeper or a local.

That said, as with most species, Halibut are opportunistic when it comes to their eating habits meaning they will eat just about anything dead or alive such as bait fish, squid, octopus and anything else they can find as well.

best bait for Halibut - squid pile

Bait Pros

  • You can match exactly to what fish eat naturally
  • Generally easy to use
  • Often cheaper than lures
  • Most fish will take a bait
  • You can cast and let the bait sit in the water (i.e. no need to cast and retrieve)
  • Bait is great for kids (meaning they can at least catch something)

Bait Cons

  • It is smelly and gets all over your clothes, tackle box and everything else take with you
  • Will deteriorate in the sun
  • Fish tend to swallow the hook more with bait (making catch and release more difficult)
  • You can lose a lot more to smaller or vermin species
  • Bait can come off hook easier in faster moving water
  • You need to make more tools with you such as a knife and cutting board

My recommended live bait options for Halibut

Halibut is found across almost the entire Northern Hemisphere so bait preferences will change depending on location, however based on my own experience and research, let’s have a look at 4 options that can help you get amongst them below:

Fresh Herring

best bait for Halibut - Herring

Herring is a great option due to its availability in many locations and the fact that it presents very well on the hook. Depending on where you are, these are the fish that not only share natural habitats with Halibut, but can also be found in shallow and deep water alike – making them a good option for summer when they head to cooler, deeper waters or winter when they come shallower.

Most avid Halibut fishers recommend using them fresh and either whole or cut into fillets. They are found naturally in the United States and across Northern Europe which makes them a common live bait across a number of regions as well as for those chasing Striped Bass, Northern pike and Yellow Perch as well.

Salmon Bits

best bait for Halibut - Salmon

Now, the reason I have titled this option as Salmon Bits rather than just Salmon is that this is a species that is an extremely popular catch and table fish in its own right. Hence when it comes to chasing Halibut, many fishers will cut the Salmon fillets or steaks off for consumption and then use the rest for bait.

Therefore, a very popular bait for Halibut then is the bits of the Salmon such as the head or white belly meat. If you are going after the monsters, then use the head. Afterall when it comes to Halibut it is definitely a case of big bait = big fish. The bellies are also a great option as it is tough, presents well and will not fall off the hook too easily. If using the fillets, I recommend a sliding a free running hook onto your leader to assist in presentation.


best bait for Halibut - Octopus

Whilst not as easy to come across and the first two options above, Octopus is another great option for Halibut due to the fact that is a little tougher and will sit on the hook for a little longer than some other baits. It can be double hooked for presentation or the tentacles can be curled up onto the circle hook as well.

Alternatively, if you have a large octopus only for your bait, then you can definitely cut the tentacles and use them one at a time as well.


best bait for Halibut - Squid

Squid is a go to bait for fishers all over the world chasing just about any saltwater species you can think of – we use them for deep sea fishing ourselves. It makes sense then that Squid is another great option for Halibut.

It qualities as a bait are similar to Octopus above in that the flesh is fairly tough and it will sit on a hook well. For Halibut, use them whole on one or two circle hooks as needed. And again, if you have larger options in your bait box, then you can use either the head or the body separately as well.

What should you be looking for?

As you look to source and use your own live bait, below are some things that you may want to consider when fishing for Halilbut:

Where the fish are – We have touched on this above however the type of bait you choose can depend on where you are trying to catch your fish. For example if you are working in shallow waters, then octopus or squid or smaller herring would work well. Keep in mind here that unlike lures, you are generally not casting and retrieving a bait so you will need to match your bait to the species that are found in that area.

Weight requirements – Bait weight, usually determined by the size or amount of bait you use, is important for a number of reasons including:

  • Heavier baits can be cast a little further – this may include rigging with a sinker.
  • Heavier baits will anchor and drag on the bottom more effectively (which is good if you are in a kayak or on a boat).
  • Lighter weights are easier to jig and ‘flick’ around.
  • Lighter baits will float better than their heavier counterparts – which is generally not where you would catch Halibut anyway.

Again, do your research into the environment that you are fishing in. If you are working in shallower waters, then a light weighted bait will work better. Heaver options may be needed in deeper areas however they will ‘catch’ on the bottom a lot more often and fall off if you are drifting.

best bait for Halibut - Halibut in water

Rod specifications – The next consideration (and a very important one) is to ensure that any bait size you use fits within the specification details of your fishing rod for Halibut. In some cases, rod specs include a tackle weight which is the highest designated weight that the rod can handle.

In most cases, however, you are going to be looking at this from the power rating of the rod. This is effectively a measure of how ‘bendy’ it is. Light power rods bend with little force and heavy ones need a lot of pressure to bend. So, in short:

  • Light – very bendy – even whippy – will bend a lot with even the smallest fish. Use these for light baits only.
  • Medium – needs a bit more pressure to bend – In general, this is a good measure for all-round use with light to medium-weighted baits for Halibut fishing.
  • Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – These are good for Halibut fishing when you are working in particularly deep water.

Tackle Requirements

In general, the main rule of thumb when it comes to using bait is to match your hook to its size. As Halibut have mouths n the bottom, I would recommend a larger circular hook giving you less chance of it slipping out

Stick to a 5/0 to 9/0 hook with a bait size to match on a double hook set through the snout and body (or across the fillet) on a running sinker or running float rig.

Local knowledge – As mentioned a number of times in this post, when I discuss live bait options for any fishing type, I always say to check with the locals to see what is found in the local system. The idea behind this is that you want to match your bait to what it is that the fish eat naturally.


And there it is – my post covering the best bait for Halibut to take this year. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.