Puget Sound Halibut Fishing

Halibut Fishing And The FWC Curse

We aren’t known for catching fish like experts, but we do still like to go fishing.  Halibut fishing is something we started doing last year with no success.  This year we came back with renewed spirits and all the right gear only to be met by foul ass weather.

First day we had scheduled to fish, we wake up to a small craft advisory.  Yeah…  That didn’t sound like fun so we screwed off, went to a Russian Spa and ate a huge pile of meat for lunch.

The next day we rolled out in the afternoon and had beautiful weather.  Not one bite and everyone we talked to hadn’t seen any halibut caught.  Great boat ride though!

Once More Unto the Breach

This last weekend we headed out halibut fishing again.  The weather was reasonable leaving Everett and wasn’t horrible when we got to Mutiny bay.  We were hopeful.  We dropped anchor and started setting up our gear.

It was about this time that I noticed that our boat, while anchored, was holding at a 90 degree angle to our anchor rope.  That was our first WTF moment of the day.  From there on in, the weather got progressively less fun.  The small waves started to build, and since we were sitting odd to our anchor rope, we were side on to the waves and wind.  When they all started to get white caps, we decided to go home.

This mean that we had already spent more time driving than fishing and were severely bummed as Thomas had just lost half his bait to a decent bite.  But we pulled anchor and bailed.

Rounding the corner into Useless Bay is when things got really fun.  I’m not sure exactly what sea or weather God we pissed off, but by the time we were in the middle of the bay, the 1-2′ waves were now 5-7′ waves and we were banging through them, hoping to get home in one piece without swimming.  After an hour of slogging our way through shit-ass waves, we made it to the East side of Possession Bar where the water flattened out and all was sunshine and happiness again.  I think the Gods don’t want us to catch Halibut…

We have one more Friday scheduled to fish, so with any luck, we can actually spend the fishing and not fighting waves and trying not to drown.

Puget Sound Halibut Fishing Tips

Since we have had plenty of non-fishing time to research what we are doing wrong, I figure we might as well pass along one of the better videos we’ve seen on Halibut fishing in Puget Sound.  Hope you enjoy and get to catch a Halibut.  I’m not sure we ever will…

2014 Puget Sound Halibut Season

More Halibut Fishing Fun

Yes, even after last year, the FWC crew is excited to go halibut fishing again.  The 2014 halibut season for Puget Sound and Juan de Fuca Strait have been announced and it looks like this:

  • Western Region (Marine Area 5): Thursday through Sunday May 22-25, Thursday through Saturday May 29-31, and Saturday June 7.
  • Eastern Region (Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10): (Marine Areas 11-13 are closed) Friday and Saturday May 9-10, Saturday May 17, Thursday through Sunday May 22-25, Thursday through Saturday May 29-31, and Saturday June 7

Pacific HalibutFor us fishing the east end of things, that means a whopping 11 days of Halibut fishing. I must admit I’m wondering if it is worth it.

What am I saying, of course it is worth it.  If  nothing else it is being out on the water and not at a desk!

As usual there is a one fish limit (if you can get one). But we do get to keep Ling Cod on Halibut fishing days, in waters over 120′ in areas where retention is allowed.

I’m not quite confident in my kayak fishing skills to try halibut fishing from a kayak yet, but I think next year, I will definitely give it a go.

Kayak Fishing For Halibut

Obviously not me doing the fishing, but this looks like fun.  I have read reports of 80# halibut being taken from kayaks in Puget Sound in in the straights.

How to Rig a Lead Head Jig for Halibut Fishing

Jigs Catch Halibut if You Rig Them Right

Here is a short video on how to rig up a lead headed jig for halibut fishing.  If you are drifting as you fish for halibut, or just tired of sitting with your bait parked on the bottom, then give jigging a try.  It might just be what the doctor ordered to get those damn halibut to bite!

Halibut Fishing Puget Sound – First Trip and Lessons Learned

I Knew Nothing About Puget Sound Halibut Fishing

While the Fishing with Cliff crew has fished for a lot of things, halibut fishing Puget Sound was something we had never given a chance.  Possibly because it means traveling a good distance out from our home port in Everett, partly because the season is too short and party because it means pretty much all new gear.

Penn GT 330 Levelwind Reel
The new reel for Puget Sound Halibut fishing.

But this season Thomas INSISTED that we make a stab at it, so we are.  Before we headed out on our own boat, I figured that I should put in some time with people that had caught halibut in Puget Sound before, so on opening day of halibut fishing 2013 dawn saw me as a passenger in a friend’s boat skipping along the amazingly glassy waters of Puget Sound heading for Mutiny Bay.

Gearing up to go halibut fishing

Earlier in the week I had sucked it up and went shopping for some halibut gear.  First off was a rod and reel.  I thought maybe our existing reels might have done OK, and they probably would have, but I am one for overkill, so a new bigger reel was in order.  After some looking and talking with store staff, I settled on a bargain priced setup and terminal tackle which consisted of:

This seemed like a reasonable start for halibut fishing Puget Sound and for the most part I was correct.  The Penn 330 quite honestly wasn’t my first choice in halibut fishing reels. I was wanting a 2-speed reel but they are in short supply and I had put off getting one until the last minute, so ordering one was out of the question.  So the Penn 330 was a reasonable and moderately inexpensive choice.

In retrospect the GT 330 is a bit big for fishing Mutiny Bay.  We were generally fishing ~120′ of water so I had WAY more line on my reel than I would ever need.  But for dragging 3# lead weights off the bottom, I am going to have to add a power bar handle to it to make cranking easier!

Terminal tackle and bait for halibut fishing

Sanddab, the bane of my halibut fishing trip!
These dirty buggers are hell on bait!

My plan was to fish whole or half herrings on a two hook rig off of a spreader bar.  Seemed reasonable enough.  Hook the top hook up through the jaw and out through the head.  The other hook would lay along the body secured with the magic thread.  The whole thing would get a dash of herring scent to make it smell nice.

What I didn’t know about halibut fishing in Mutiny Bay was the number of voracious and unstoppable Sand Dabs.  If you aren’t familiar with them, they are flat fish that look similar to a halibut, just much smaller and infinitely more annoying.  No sooner would my bait hit the bottom, but these little bastards were chewing it to pieces!

The spreader bar and hook assembly worked perfectly and kept my terminal tackle from tangling up all but twice during the course of the day.   My companions were using a sliding rig that looked similar to a Carolina Rig with their weights and bait sitting right on the bottom.  Their gear pretty consistently came up tangled all to hell.

What I should have been fishing for halibut with

Next time I go out I will most likely take out a batch of hollow rubber squid that I can jam some herring and scent inside of.  That way the damn Sanddab (and crabs) won’t just shred my bait.  That or some good old B2 Squid which are always a good standby.

Weights for halibut fishing Puget Sound

This I more or less got right.  Halibut fishing Puget Sound means fighting the tide changes, so knowing the depth we were going to be fishing I punted for some 3# lead weights.  My fishing companions were running much lighter gear and were tying on series of 4oz lead balls to achieve anywhere between 8oz and 16oz of weight and teased me a bit about my monster chunks of lead.

The result though that I was fishing more or less straight down all day.  They could hit the bottom without too much difficulty in the morning when the tide was gentle and at slack. But when the afternoon tide rolled in, they had to put out a lot of line to get down.  They picked on me a little about my monster weights, but those big weights did their job!

Next Time Halibut Fishing Puget Sound

There are several lessons that I have after my first halibut fishing Puget Sound adventure.

Anchoring up and chumming

I definitely think anchoring up is the way to go considering the number of people you are likely to see if you are in a popular spot like Mutiny Bay halibut fishing.  Additionally, anchoring up give you an opportunity to drop a chum bag, giving the halibut something big to smell so they can find your boat.

Finding the right spot to anchor up

I have my doubts about the spots we anchored up and their quality.  Yes everyone is in a cluster, but that doesn’t mean it is the ideal spot to set up shop.  Next time we will be a little more picky about the structure and depths we choose.

Bringing the right halibut fishing lures

As I said, I brought the wrong gear for Mutiny Bay halibut fishing.  The bait got chewed off too fast to make fishing naked meat practical.  Next time it is hollow body squid or B2 squid for us.  The rest of my tackle worked perfectly well.

Other gear to bring halibut fishing

Aside from the lures I have mentioned there are a few things I will bring with us next time we go out halibut fishing.

  • A proper harpoon for spearing the halibut
  • A big cooler to keep our halibut in
  • Chum bag for hooking on the anchor

Now We Have the Gear for Halibut Fishing Puget Sound

Now that we have the gear for halibut fishing Puget Sound, we have very little excuse to go!  So you will likely see the FWC crew out in Mutiny Bay the rest of the 2013 halibut fishing season.  Will we catch any halibut?  Not sure, but I’m willing to give it a few more tries!

Have any tips, suggestions or insults to send our way?  Post them in the comments section and let your voice be heard!

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Halibut Fishing Reels

Gearing up to go halibut fishing?

Halibut fishing reels are special critters and when you are thinking of gearing up to go out halibut fishing, it is the one piece of tackle that you really need to be able to rely on.  Your halibut fishing reel is the item that will not only stop your fish when it runs and power it in, but will be what you are cranking on all day pulling up 3-4# weights.

Whatever halibut fishing reel you slap on your rod, it needs to be durable. It also needs to be fast enough to pull up a couple hundred yards of line at a time between fish!

Here is a selection of fishing reels that have been reviewed and suggested as good for halibut fishing.  Now I will admit that I haven’t gotten to play with all of these primarily because we only get one month of halibut fishing time here in Puget Sound.

Halibut Fishing Reels

Shimano TLD-20 Halibut Fishing Reels

Shimano TLD-20 Powerful, light and durable, the leverdrag TLD IIA reels offer 2-speed versatility, salt-resistant A-RB bearings and all the performance you can handle. The TLD II conventional reel features include: a graphite frame and sideplate, erogonomic power handle, aluminum spool, and a clicker. This reel is approved for use in Saltwater and rated for use with Mono, Fluorocarbon and PowerPro lines.amazon_check_price

Shimano Tyrnos Halibut Fishing Reels

shimano halibut fishing reel The Tyrnos 2-Speed expands on the popular Tyrnos line, with selectable Power or High Speed gear ratio. Rip jigs fast, then put it in low gear for fish-fighting strength. Because two sets of gears are always meshed, changes can even happen under load, and the lever drag system provides easy, on-the-fly adjustments. Tyrnos 2-Speed additional features include: Topless Design (8, 10, 12, 16 only), Reduced Profile Top Crossbar (20, 30 only), High Speed Gear Ratios, Oversized Gears for incredible amounts of fish-moving torque), Diecast Aluminum Frame, Oversized Handle Shank, Alternating Twin Pawl Anti-Reverse, Lightweight Graphite Sideplates with Aluminum Braces), Ergonomic Power Handle, Clicker, Harness Lugs (20 & 30 only), Ratcheting Drag Lever, Metal Series, and Rod Clamp Included. Tymos 2-Speed is approved for use in Saltwater and rated for use with Mono, Fluorocarbon and PowerPro lines.best price on shimano Trynos halibut fishing reels

Penn Graph-Lite Lever Drag Reel GLD20 II Halibut Fishing Reel

penn graphite halibut reel The Penn GLD has quickly become the reel of choice for many of Penn’s Pro Staff Anglers as their sailfish and white marlin reel. Geared fast enough to keep up with any billfish charging the boat (or for some rapid-fire bait changes when they just can’t seem to find the hook), both the Single-speed and Two-Speed GLD models feature a larger, more comfortable handle than competing graphite lever drags, and are a much more comfortable and powerful reel to fish.

best price on Penn halibut fishing reels

Okuma Solterra SLR 30II Halibut Fishing Reel

Okuma halibut fishing reel The Solterra is Okuma’s broadest line of lever drag reels, with applications from Alaska to Panama and Hawaii to Maine. Building on a base of stainless steel main gears, pinion gears and spool shaft, Solterra’s extend outward with anodized aluminum spools and durable, corrosion resistant frames.

best price on Okuma halibut fishing reels

Halibut and Ling Cod Fishing in Puget Sound

Looks like the Halibut fishing is starting out good.  Now just to get enough time to get Thomas and get the boat around into some spots where we can actually catch some!

The halibut and lingcod fisheries in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and two southern coastal ports started off on a high note.

The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and north Puget Sound generated good catches of halibut when the areas opened last weekend.

“I’ve never seen such a phenomenal halibut fishery on the (May 1) opening day like this one,” said Larry Bennett, the head state Fish and Wildlife sampler in the Strait.
(Seattle Times)