Halibut Fishing in BC



Halibut fishing open February 1, 2017 until further notice.

  • The maximum head on length for halibut is 133 cm (Approx. 101 cm head off).
  • The daily limit for halibut is one (1).
  • The possession limit for halibut is two (2), only one of which may be greater than 83 cm, head-on (approx. 63 cm head off) in length.
  • The annual limit is six (6) halibut per licence holder, as set out on the 2016-2017 Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence.
  • All halibut retained by the licence holder shall be immediately recorded in ink on the 2016-2017 Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence. The area from which each halibut is caught and its length (cm) shall immediately be recorded on licence.

The exceptions to these openings are:

  • Area 121: No person shall fish for or retain halibut, rockfish and lingcod in Area 121 outside the 12 nautical mile limit seaward of a line that begins at 48 degrees 34.000 minutes and 125 degrees 17.386 minutes W and continues south easterly at a bearing of 116 degrees True to a point at 48 degrees 28.327 minutes and 125 degrees 01.687 minutes W.

    Map: Finfish closure Area 121

Note: Rockfish Conservations Areas (RCA's) remain in effect.

FN0125 2017-02-20

FN0071 2017-02-01

Non-residents wishing to fish and retain halibut in Fishery Management Areas 121, 23 and 123, must obtain their licence from a licence vendor in Canada.

Area 121 - Swiftsure Bank – Closed Area

The waters of Swiftsure Bank, inside a line from 48°34.00'N and 125°06.00'W, thence to 48°34.00'N and 124° 54.20'W, thence to 48°29.62'N and 124°43.40'W, thence following the International Boundary between Canada and the U.S. to 48°29.55'N and 124°56.20'W, thence in a straight line to the point of commencement, are closed to retention of all finfish.

Map: Swiftsure Bank Closure

Halibut Transporting and Packaging Guidelines

  • As identified above and on the 2016/ 2017 Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence, size limits are in effect. In order to comply with these size limits it will be a requirement for recreational harvesters to measure any halibut they decide to retain prior to keeping it.
  • You are required to record your halibut catch on your licence. Carry a tape measure and a pen with you on your boat so that you can record on your licence: the date, Fisheries Management Area and length of the halibut you decide to keep.
  • Mark an area on your vessel’s hull at the water-line in the area where you would play your catch. Use these marks to determine the 83 cm or 133 cm size limit of your catch. A measuring device may also be fashioned from a piece of wooden dowel such as the handle on a deck broom. Mark the two size limits on the dowel and use this to measure your catch while it is still in the water.
  • Small halibut are easier to handle than larger ones and may be netted and brought on board your vessel where they can be measured and either returned or taken within your daily limit. If you decide to release a small halibut, if possible, do so while it is still in the water as this will cause it the least amount of harm.
  • DO NOT bring large halibut on board your vessel to measure. Halibut are a very powerful fish and can cause you serious injury. If you believe you cannot properly measure a large fish safely and accurately enough to comply with the length requirement then release the fish.

Packaging for Transport

  • Any halibut that you catch may be left whole, may have the head removed, or may be filleted as noted below.
  • Halibut may be packaged by a registered fish processing establishment. Some lodges are registered and provide this service and most coastal communities have certified establishments that also offer this service.


Halibut that are too large for your cooler may be filleted for transport however some care must be taken to ensure that the fish you possess can be readily measured if inspected by a fishery officer.

  • In order to comply with minimum or maximum length regulations you must either leave your halibut with the head and tail attached, or you may fillet it so that one fillet has the tail and the pectoral fin attached. This will allow the length from the end of the tail to the most forward anterior point where the pectoral fin is attached to be measured.
  • Once filleted you should have no more than seven pieces from each halibut including the one whole fillet with the tail and pectoral fin attached.
  • To remove the fillets so that you can comply with the maximum length requirement remove the top (dorsal) fillets first.
  • Remove the bottom (ventral) fillet from one side. This leaves you the last remaining fillet still attached, the backbone, tail, and the pectoral fin on the side opposite to where the first ventral fillet was removed.
  • You must retain the pectoral fin and the tail attached to the last fillet. Beginning at the pectoral fin, start to remove the fillet towards the tail as you normally would.
  • Once near the end of the fillet, cut through the spine above the tail being careful to leave the skin facing you at the tail attached.
  • When you have cut through the spine you can cut through the flesh at the end of the fillet down to the skin without cutting it through which then will act like a hinge allowing the tail to be folded under the fillet for transport. If this last halibut fillet is still too long to fit your cooler, you may make a cut through the flesh of the fillet down to the skin without cutting through into two pieces. This fillet can then be folded at the cuts to permit storage in your cooler and allow the length of your catch to be readily measured.
  • The dorsal fillets and the fillet without the tail and pectoral fin may each be cut into two pieces for ease of storage until you arrive at your ordinary residence.
  • Keep the pieces of each fillet together in its own bag.
  • The ventral fillet that has the tail and pectoral fin attached must remain in one piece. Should you make a mistake during this procedure on removal of this last fillet, retain the pieces from it and keep them together in a separate bag so that they may be inspected if required.
  • Fillet pieces that are frozen must be frozen separately so that each piece may be measured if required.
  • Avoid cutting fish into smaller pieces. The regulation states that the fish you possess must be readily measureable to determine that it is in compliance where size limits apply. You are responsible to comply with this requirement.

See packaging and transport guidelines for all species.

Release Halibut with Care

There are regulations in place that require all fish that are not retained, to be released back into the water from which they came immediately with the least amount of harm.

Halibut have a high survival rate and can withstand being caught and released. However, anglers should take care when handling halibut which are to be released. Releasing fish in the least harmful manner is a requirement by law. Here are some suggestions to assist anglers in catching and releasing halibut with care:

  • Avoid the use of stainless steel hooks. Should you have to consider cutting your line rather than removing a hook from a halibut that is deeply-hooked, standard steel hooks will rust away faster.
  • Use circle hooks as these have proven to hook halibut in the jaw or corner of the mouth. If you have to use J hooks pinch the barb to make unhooking easier.
  • Use heavy duty leader you can grab with a gloved hand. Halibut aren’t leader shy and a heavy leader is easier and safer for you to get a hold of and will provide you with a secure grip and control of your catch.
  • Use gear designed to catch halibut and avoid incidental species.
  • Halibut of similar age classes and size tend to school together. If you are fishing in an area and catching mostly larger fish, try moving to a new area where smaller fish typically are found.
  • Do not overplay your catch. Bring your catch to the surface as quickly as possible.
  • If you are going to release a fish, release it in the water. If it is unsafe to easily remove the hook the safest measure to take is to cut the line. If you have boated your catch and are releasing it, avoid handling it by the tail alone or the gills when releasing.
  • Mark an area at the waterline of your boat that measures 83 cm and 133 cm so that it is easier to determine when a fish is greater than that length.
  • Construct a measuring gauge from wood, plastic or aluminum that has an end that you can butt against the halibut’s tail and mark off the 83 cm and 133 cm lengths measured from the end of the gauge and use this to measure fish in the water.


Information: Halibut Experimental Recreational Fishery Program

In addition to the regular tidal water sport fishing licence, recreational harvesters can obtain an experimental licence, on a voluntary basis, that will allow the licence holder to lease halibut quota from the commercial sector for use in the recreational fishery. More information