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The Best Baits for Halibut Fishing

If you’re a fan of crab meat or even a good clam, halibut is the fish for you. This common fish has a mild and slightly sweet flavor that you can procure through numerous cooking methods: smoking, grilling, searing, steaming, and more. 

person pulling a halibut out of the water

But if you want to catch this awesome groundfish, you’re going to need the best bait for halibut. We have seven options below that are proven to get the fish biting – hook, line, and sinker! 

What’s the Best Bait for Halibut?

Squid 

Squid is a classic bait choice when it comes to catching yourself a freezer’s worth of halibut.

squid for bait

Squid itself tends to be a soft bait choice, so it’s susceptible to getting stolen off of rigs. However, you can load it up on two smaller hooks at once to help secure it. 

You can use both fresh and frozen squid to lure halibut – they’ll eat it in chunks or whole, so it really doesn’t matter. 

Octopus 

Like squid, octopus is another fun bait to use for halibut that gets the job done well. Octopus flesh is very tough and rubbery, meaning it’ll stay on your hook well. 

an octopus for bait

Octopus works best with bait chunks anywhere from eight to ten inches. If you make your bait too long, the fish will be able to nibble at it without truly getting hooked. 

Unless you plan on catching octopus yourself, we suggest grabbing this one at your local bait store. 

Salmon Belly 

Salmon bellies make for some really excellent bait for halibut fishing. The belly of a salmon has a very fishy taste.

salmon belly for bait

Since most people don’t love this flavor, using it as bait is not wasteful. You can enjoy the rest of the salmon and use this part for something even better. 

Salmon belly works best in chunks on a circle hook. The tough salmon skin keeps it firmly attached to the hook, so it doesn’t come loose.

Herring 

Any smart halibut will surely enjoy a nice, tasty herring snack. The species loves this fish, so baiting with it will always bring them back for more.

a single herring fish for bait

Of course, herring has the downside of being a bit soft and mushy. Mature halibut may even be able to get it off your hook without getting caught. 

If you want to use herring to lure halibut, try brining your bait for a few days. Doing this can toughen up the chunks, making them more secure on your J-hooks. 

Sardines and Anchovies 

Sardines are one of the most common baitfish, and anchovies aren’t that different. Both of these tiny fish swim fast and near the surface, making them a fantastic target for halibut looking for a meal. 

a single sardine for bait

Sardines and anchovies have pungent smells and high oil contents, making them highly appealing to fish like halibut. You can use the tail method, the half hitch method, the sewing method, or the filet method. 

Sardines and anchovies alike also make perfect live bait. 

Small Mackerel

It’s not often we think of predatory fish as bait, but the small mackerel is the perfect example of this happening. Small mackerel are fast and furious fish, but they’re surprisingly easy to catch using lures. 

3 mackerel for bait

Because this fish is very oily, it makes wonderful bait for halibut fishing. You can catch it, buy it fresh from markets, or get it frozen in bait shops. The best way to set up your mackerel bait is in small strips showing silver underside. 

You can also use small mackerel as live bait. 

Smelts 

Smelts are anadromous schooling fish, which means they move from freshwater to saltwater. Their small size makes them an obvious bait choice – although fishing for smelts is a fun endeavor on its own.

smelt fish for bait

You can use marine worms, baitfish, or artificial baits to catch your own smelts. You can also use the smelt itself to catch other ones when cut into small pieces. 

Live smelts are desirable halibut bait as their movements draw the fish in. 

Final Thoughts

Sear it with lemon, bake it with breadcrumbs, or top it with fresh parmesan – halibut is a great way to spice up the average weeknight dinner, and you don’t have to be afraid of the skin!

But you can only eat them if you can catch them.

These seven bait options are easy to find, fun to catch, and highly effective. They can draw in the biggest halibut of the pack and make you feel like the most successful fisherman in the world. Try them out and see how they treat you!

Is this not the fish you were thinking of? That’s okay! Many people often confuse halibut for flounder.

Rocco Smith

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