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Halibut Articles by John L. Beath 

Beyond Barndoors,  Chickens Can Be Found... Middle Bank & Hein Bank in the Strait of Juan de Fuca can be great halibut fishing.


It was apparent by the ever increasing bend in my rod, that I had either hooked planet Earth, a Trident submarine or a Barndoor halibut.  In the beginning nothing budged so I ruled out the submarine scenario.  Sooner or later my 14-pound monofilament and 4/0 hooks would forever be snagged on the bottom or a barndoor halibut weighing in excess of 60-pounds would come alive exhibiting "reel power."

The excitement of temporarily not knowing what I had hooked, was enough to send adrenalin to my already aching arms.  Within seconds I felt a head shake, then line freely left my small salmon mooching reel.  I knew at the outset of my salmon mooching trip to Middle Bank that anything could happen, and now that possibility had become a reality. 

It was evident that I had indeed hooked into a huge barndoor halibut.  The barndoor slid along the bottom from a depth of 140-feet into 280-feet of water.  During the entire battle, line continued to disappear from my reel and into the seemingly bottomless, deep blue water. 

My 17-foot boat continued to be towed by an unseen behemoth barndoor while my rod-tip continued to dip into the froth coming from beneath my boat.  After being towed over two nautical miles, without gaining any line, I knew I had more than I bargained for on this salmon fishing trip.  Finally, the barndoor closed beneath me, and sent all of my line sizzling from my reel just before snapping my graphite rod like a twig when it reached the end.  Opportunity only knocked once that day.  With a little luck and proper planning, the next time opportunity knocks on my barndoor or yours at Middle Bank the outcome might be different.

Middle Bank is located at the junction where Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan De Fuca meet.  Victoria Canada's skyline can be seen to the northwest, San juan Island to the north, Whidbey Island to the northeast and the snow-capped Olympic mountains dominate the southern skyline.  Since Middle Bank is located in open waters, due-care-and-caution when boating to or from it have to be practiced.  Small boats (car-topers and lake boats) are not advised to venture to Middle Bank. 

Middle Bank is accessible to boats launching out of Anacortes, Sequim, and any one of several San Juan Islands.  Your boat should be equipped with all the proper safety equipment and you should have a VHF radio on board.

In the spring, small numbers of barndoor halibut (60+ pounds) move from deeper water to the 33 to 44 fathom ledges on the northeast side of Middle Bank that bends around the large, flat, 11 to 18 fathom bottom on top of Middle Bank. 

Beyond the barndoor halibut ledges, chicken halibut in the 10 to 20 pound range can be found.  Chicken halibut seem to prefer the long, wide flat rocky/sandy area that comprises most of Middle Bank.  This area is much easier to find and easier to fish due to its shallower, flat, less snaggy surface. 

Which ever part of Middle Bank you choose you will still need to find it.  Even though it's a large bank it can be difficult to find without other boats already on top of it.  I highly recommend the use of Loran C. and a good fish finder when trying to locate Middle Bank (or any other for that matter) and its productive ledges. 

Several fishing methods will work at Middle Bank.  jigging and spreader bars and bait are the most popular methods of fishing halibut here.  These methods usually require short stiff rods, large reels and heavy monofilament or high-tech spectra-type lines in the 30 to 80-pound class, depending on your personal preference.

Jiggers find that leadhead jigs with plastic worms or plastic scampis work best.  Luhr Jensen B2 Squids, giant Crippled Herring, Buzz Bombs, and Pt. Wilson darts in 6 to 18 ounce sizes also work well for halibut here.  Make sure that you constantly hit bottom while jigging, this will help attract halibut and imitate food fish like the sandlance.   Take along a good supply of different sized jigs with you, chances are, you will need to match the current with the size of jig to use -- and most likely you will loose some of them.

Custom-made Trophy leaders made of tuna cord work best when bait fishing. Spreader bars also work well and allow halibut fishermen to quickly lower their bait to the bottom without constantly tangling their herring and leader on the mainline or catching those pesky dogfish so common to our marine waters.  Herring is the bait of preference for spreader bar fishermen on Middle Bank, pieces of octopus are a close second.  Spreader bar anglers will need a supply of lead cannon balls ranging in size from 12 to 32 ounces.

Trolling for halibut is fast becoming a popular alternative to the standard methods of halibut fishing.  Sport halibut trollers work the main body of Middle Bank using a red Hot-Spot flasher and glow-in-the-dark white squid tipped with herring or a 6 to 7 inch whole herring trolled behind the Hot-Spot flasher.   This method allows you to use your standard salmon rod and reel, twenty-pound mainline and thirty-pound leaders tied with 4/0 hooks. 

According to Mike Greenleaf, who helped pioneer trolling for halibut on Hein and Middle Banks, anglers should follow these instructions to catch halibut using Hot-Spots and squid or bait.  Put a Golden Bait white glow-in-the-dark #OG55R on a 44 inch leader with double 4/0 hooks and tie it to a red Hot-Spot plastic flasher.  Fillet a 6 or 7 inch herring and cut the fillet in half.  Tip the top hook with half a fillet making sure it doesn't stretch beyond the squid's tentacles.  Before you lower the flasher into the water, squirt a line of Dr. Juice (salmon flavor) the entire length of the flasher.  He also recommends using a fresh bottle, not last years old bottle.

Run the flasher 15 feet behind the downrigger ball.  Only troll fast enough to allow the flasher to slowly roll over.  The trick to trolling for halibut is to allow the flasher to actually hit bottom one out of every four rotations.  Every time the flasher hits bottom it will kick up sand and debris, this is what attracts nearby halibut to the flasher/squid or flasher/bait.  This method of fishing requires at least one person to continually work the downriggers up or down making sure to keep them at what ever depth the depth sounder indicates -- don't be afraid to bounce bottom with the downrigger balls either Mike advises.

Regardless of which method you choose to fish for Middle Bank halibut, be on the lookout for bait columns on your fish finder near the bottom.  Once you locate the bait, most likely you've also located a halibut or two. 

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Copyright John L. Beath 2000 halibut.net a division of Pacific Lure Communications


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