Halibut

The name Halibut is actually a name for a group of three species of large flatfish from the right eye flounder family.  They are a saltwater ground dwelling species found in the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Artic Oceans.

It is the largest of the flatfish and highly sought after as a prized table fish – especially around Catholic holidays and as a traditional food for  Alaska Native and Canadian First Nation communities.

Name

Halibut draws its name from haly (holy) and butte (flat fish) for its popularity on Catholic holy days with three species as follows:

  • Atlantic halibut – Hippoglossus hippoglossus – lives in the North Atlantic
  • Pacific halibut –  Hippoglossus stenolepis – lives in the North Pacific Ocean
  • Greenland halibut – Reinhardtius hippoglossoides – lives in the cold northern Atlantic, northern Pacific, and Arctic Oceans
Halilbut - Halibut on plate

Location

As above, members of the Halibut family can be found over the northern parts of the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Artic Oceans.   They are fished from Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Germany, Canada and the USA from California on the west coast around to Maine in the East.

Description

Halibut are a flat fish with elongated bodies, a large mouth, and flanks that vary in colour from dark brown to greenish grey, pale grey or white.  As with other members of the flounder family, they have two eyes close together on the same side of their head.  They also have very small scales invisible to the naked eye embedded in their skin.

Their size range is also extremely large with males ranging upward to about 60 pounds and the females to about 600 pounds in weight.  Additionally, Pacific Halibut can attain a length of over 8 feet and a width of over 5 feet.

Lifespan/Breeding

Due to their cold water habitats, Halibut are a slow growing fish with males attaining maturity at seven to eight years old and females at 10 to 11 years.  They generally live to around 25 to 30 years old but can get to around 40 years under the right conditions.

As with most fish species, breeding is dependent upon location and water temperatures however in general, most females spawn during November to March.

Halilbut - Man with Halibut

Natural Foods

Halibut are not fussy when it comes to feeding and will generally eat whatever they can get into their mouths.   Adults tend to go for baitfish such as Herring and Whitebait however their full diet can include: 

  • Salmon
  • Lamprey
  • Sculpin
  • Cod
  • Pollock
  • Flounder
  • Sand lance
  • Octopus
  • Crab

World Record Size

The largest reported Halibut caught was 459 pounds in 1996 by Jack Tragis. It was taken in the Gulf of Alaska, in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Halibut Fishing Seasons

As with most species, Halibut is most commonly caught in the warmer seasons from Spring to early Fall across the northern hemisphere.  They are usually extremely plentiful during these times however in terms of sustainability and conservation,  many jurisdictions implement strict seasonal fishing timelines as well.

Many also incorporate other limitations such as the number of lines/hooks and slot limits too. 

Best Gear For Catching Halibut

Many Halibut fishers use both spinning and baitcaster reels effectively and successfully. In general, to catch Halibut you will need:

Spinning reel – 4000 – 6000 – lined with mono or braid

Baitcaster reel – 200 – 500 – lined with mono or braid

Rod – around 7ft with a heavier power and matching of reel size

Halibut will take both bait and lures.

Consumption

Halibut is a species fished mainly for consumption rather than as a gamefish – although they are large enough to be a fun catch – and  consumed as a daily meal in many communities as well as for special occasions such as weddings and other celebrations – especially within the catholic church.  

The meat is generally white with large flakes and a mild, sweet taste with nutrients such as vitamin B12, protein and selenium.  Pacific Halibut however is a little softer (even jelly like) than their Atlantic or Greenland cousins.

As per most white meated species, they are best eaten by filleting and then:

  • Pan frying
  • Deep frying
  • Grilling
  • Poaching/Baking n oven)

They are also commonly smoked.  they can be eaten raw but it is highly recommended to freeze for a week or so first to kill any parasites. 

Check out some more information in regards to eating Halibut here.

Halibut - Baked Halibut
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