Halibut Fishing Washington State

Halibut fishing Washington State has been an important aspect of the state's heritage and culture for centuries. The season runs from the beginning of May until about the middle of June. With spring in full bloom, this is the perfect time to visit this picturesque state. Come for the halibut and enjoy the breathtaking scenery while you are here.

The Halibut

Pacific halibut reside in the northern hemisphere of the ocean. They can be found as far north as the Bering Sea and as far south as Santa Rosa Island, California. Large halibut around Washington are usually found in shallow waters, not more than about 200 feet deep.

Sketch of Halibut
Sketch of a halibut Reproduced under a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of Robert of Fairfax on Flickr

A female halibut can grow to an astounding nine feet long and weigh up to nearly 500 pounds. They have been tracked to live as long as 45 years. Males, on the other hand, are much smaller, weighing in at about 40 pounds and living only 25 years.

Commercial fishing of the halibut dates back to the late 1800s and today it is one of the largest and most lucrative type in the fishing industry. Commercial fishermen generally use the longline method. A weighted line with baited circle hooks set at specific intervals is put in the water and left there for several hours. Then the fishermen come back and reel in the fish. The current moves the bait around, imitating live bait.

Managing halibut fishing is extremely important because the fish mature very slowly. They are unable to reproduce until they are about eight years old. At this stage they are approximately thirty inches long. Catching them at this size will prevent reproduction and is prohibited by U.S. and Canadian fishing regulations, so please take note of this when Halibut Fishing Washington State.

Starting Out

The state of Washington requires you to buy a new fishing license every year. The license is not expensive. It will usually run you about $28 to $83 depending on whether you are a resident or a visitor. The lower cost is for residents. Rates for youths, seniors and people with disabilities are less than $10. You may also have to pay taxes and dealer fees.

The fishing license might seem expensive if you are not a resident, but the excitement of landing a giant 500 pound halibut is well worth the cost.

You can buy a Washington State fishing license online or at more than five hundred retail stores throughout the state. If you do not want to buy a license, you can take advantage of the annual Washington State free fishing weekend.

Every year at the beginning of June, Washington hosts a free fishing weekend. Just keep in mind that this free weekend will be jam packed with amateur fishermen, children and many other part-time fishing enthusiasts.

Halibut Fishing Washington State
Halibut Fishing Washington State Reproduced under a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of Schmish on Flickr

Where to Go Halibut Fishing Washington State

Neah Bay - Neah Bay is on the Makah Indian reservation in Clallam County. It is considered the number one halibut fishing location in North America. Fishing charters will take you on a guided tour of the best fishing spots, where you are almost guaranteed to catch a fish.

Middle Bank – Middle Bank sits between the Strait of Jaun de Fuca and the Haro Strait. From here you can see the skyline of Victoria, British Columbia and snowy peaks of the Olympic mountains. This area is known for its barndoor and chicken halibut. Most people find success using jigging methods, spreader bars or bait.

Partridge Bank – Partridge Bank is located on the west side of Whidbey Island. The tide is an important factor when when fishing here. Experts recommend you try the east side of the bank when the tide is coming in and fish on the west side when the tide is moving out. This area is home to large schools of candlefish, which are one the halibut's favorite foods.

You can also try Hein Bank, Sekiu, Port Angeles, Coyote Bank, Eastern Bank and Mutiny Bay. Some of the banks are hard to find. You will need a good GPS or an experienced outfitter to find the bank, or you can just look for the cluster of fishing boats. A fish finder is also helpful. Once you find the bait fish, the halibut aren't far behind.

Halibut will eat just about any fish that will fit into their mouth. Sand lance, crab, octopus, hermit crabs, salmon, lamprey, cod, sculpin, herring, pollock, flounder and even other halibut have been found in the stomachs of these fish. But, most people agree that the candlefish is their favorite. Wherever large schools of candlefish gather is usually the best place to find halibut.

Regardless of which halibut fishing Washington State location you choose, get out there when the season and weather allows and you are practically guaranteed to land the Pacific Ocean’s flattest, tastiest prize.

Go from Halibut Fishing Washington State to the menu page

Visit the Washington Coast Adventures home page

What's Your Adventure?

You will want to check out these terrific videos selected just for you on our Facebook page right here...

Washington State Tourism event calendar

Washington State Tourism Event Calendar

How to use the Washington State map at AAA

How to use the Washington State map at AAA

Discover Washington State Parks, awesome attractions of Nature. This is Deception Pass.

State Parks

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Whidbey Island is one of the jewels of the Washington Coast

Whidbey Island

There are endless Washington State tourist attractions to explore!

Tourist Attractions

Get away from it all by Fishing in Washington State


A world of flavor from Washington State Wineries


Whidbey Airpark, part of our Washington Airports page

Washington Airports

Have a story to share?

Send us your Washington Coast Memories,
Photos or Traveler Tips!