Halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught halibut can weigh 40 Kg (90 lbs) or more. Commercial deep sea trawlers have even caught halibut which weigh more than 115 Kg (250 lbs). Halibut can even reach weights in excess of 317 Kg (700 lbs)!

Fancy hooking one? The average rod-caught halibut weighs around 13.60 Kg (30 lbs).

Also known as

Atlantic halibut

IUCN Status

EN – Endangered


The halibut is a right eyed flatfish, meaning that when viewed from straight on, its eyes are on the right hand side of its body, it is also the largest species of flatfish in British waters. The halibut has a diamond shaped body which is dark olive-brown in colour on top with a white underside. It has a noticeable curve in the lateral line over the pectoral fins, its dorsal and anal fins span the entire length of its body and it has sharp teeth and a large mouth.

Warning: Treat the halibut’s mouth with the caution its teeth command.

So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

The most effective bait for halibut fishing is whole live fish, particularly coalfish, pollack, mackerel, haddock, whiting and squid. Freshly killed whole fish or fish strips can also be used.


The halibut can be caught throughout the year, but the best sport is mainly during July, August, September, October and November.

Favourite Feeding Places

The halibut favours particularly deep offshore waters where it feeds at depths between 30 fathoms (54.86 m) and 600 fathoms (1,100 m) and can even be found lower than this! Don’t forget to take plenty of line!

Best Locations

Halibut is best caught in the deep, cold seas around northern Scotland, Orkneys, Shetland, and occasionally Northern Ireland.

Best rigs for catching halibut

Boat Fishing

Halibut can only really be caught when boat fishing, a rotten bottom rig over rocky ground, with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on main reel line is a great option. Alternatively a boat leger rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on main reel line can also be used.

Rotten Bottom Rig

This rig is perfect when fishing over reefs or rocks where you understand that you may lose a trapped weight, but are reluctant to lose swivels, hooks and long lengths of line along with it. Should your weight become inextricably caught amongst the rocks, steady pressure on your line by pulling with gloved hands (do not strain your rod) will break the weaker “light” line attaching weight to the main line. The lighter line should be ABOUT half the breaking strain of the main line. The distance between weight and swivel can vary, but should generally be at least 200 mm (8 inches). The hook should be a minimum of 150 mm (6 inches) from the swivel or blood loop on the main line.

Cost-effective rotten bottom rigs can be constructed with expendable weights such as bolts, nuts and stones with naturally worn holes etc. (see B below).

DO NOT make sweeping overhead casts from the shore with a rotten bottom rig as the weight could break off and injure someone!

Boat Leger Rig

This is one of the simplest and most effective rigs for boat anglers. The space between the hook and swivel can vary, but should generally be about 1 m (3 ft). The bait is presented on the seabed and the line is able to move through the boom without hitting the weight which would otherwise scare off a bait-biting fish.

Top tip

Live bait is the most effective to catch halibut, hook the fish through its upper jaw behind the lip. If you’re using freshly killed whole fish or fish strips use enticing movements by raising and lowering your rod and/or reel-in a metre or two of line, then slowly release the same length of line. Keep doing this action at regular intervals to arouse halibut.