Pacific halibut is the largest bottom-dwelling flatfish. Its blotchy olive and brownish colour disguises it when nestled into the sandy seafloor. Weighing up to 500 pounds (226 kg), halibut primarily live in the cold waters of the North Pacific and Bering Sea, migrating a great distance from shallow coastal waters to the deep sea to spawn each winter. They return to fertile coastal grounds to feed.
Pacific halibut are flat and diamond-shaped with a white underbelly and both eyes on its upper side. Males tend to be considerably smaller with a maximum weight of 125 pounds (56 kg). It is a firm-textured fish and has relatively few bones, making it a popular catch. Halibut cheeks are especially prized because of their sweet flavour.
From November to March, mature halibut make their home along the edge of the continental shelf at depths of 600 to 1,500 feet (180 to 460 metres). Here females lay from 500,000 to 4 million eggs to be fertilized. As the eggs develop into larvae and grow, they drift slowly upward, travelling great distances with the ocean currents in a counter-clockwise direction around the Northeast Pacific. This free-floating stage usually lasts six months. The young fish eventually settle at the bottom in shallow feeding areas. After another two to three years in nursery areas, halibut migrate back to the deep sea. At about 10 years of age, females spawn on the same grounds where they were hatched. The fish live up to 40 years.
Bottom Longline with Hooks
This fishery uses a bottom longline that is baited with hooks and anchored to the ocean floor. A longline can be from 1 to 3 miles (1.6 to 5 km) long and have up to 2,000 hooks.