Port Angeles, Washington launching point for local halibut
Port Angeles is the spot for the inside halibut opener and still looks like a good bet for local inside-the-strait halibut action. Port Angeles is the preferred launching point for the halibut fishing that occurs in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. A short boat ride takes you to legendary halibut banks and shoals such as Freshwater Bay, the Humps, 31-36 Hole, the Rock Pile, Coyote Bank, Green Point, and many others.
The halibut that inhabit the depths of Port Angeles are not as plentiful as Neah Bay, or the LaPush ocean fishery, but are usually larger in size. The average Port Angeles halibut usually weighs in the 40 to 50 pound range, with several caught each year well over 100 pounds.
Top Port Angeles Halibut Spots
The Rock Pile located 7.5 miles north of Ediz Hook is a local favorite and is one of the premier spots for drift mooching or jigging for halibut. It can be crowded and it’s best to use the kicker motor to hold position against the tide, backtrolling against the current with the boat in reverse, keeping the lines as straight down as possible. Drift from 100 feet of water out to 300 feet on the back side of the rock pile. Fish the west side of the Rock Pile on the ebb tide and the east side on the flood tide. Location: N48°14′ x W123°20′.
The 31-36 Hole is located 6 miles northwest of Ediz Hook. This bank is very heavily fished, but only because it is a consistent producer of halibut. The 31-36 Hole is a larger bank then the Rock Pile and there’s a lot more area to fish here. Drift fishermen should start on top of the bank in 180 feet of water and drift off until they can no longer stay on the bottom. The top producing depths in this area are from 240 to 300 feet of water. Location: N48°12′ x W123°18′.
The Humps are located 4 miles west of Ediz Hook and are sometimes referred to as the Three Humps or First Hump, Second Hump, or Third Hump. The Humps are rocky in certain areas, so it’s best to not let the gear drag on the bottom or it’s easy to hang up gear. Moochers do best on the incoming tide drifting parallel to the shelf, or south of the first hump in 90 to 300 feet of water. Location: N48°10′ x W123°29′.
The best fishing here occurs along the 120 to 200 foot ledge for halibut. You will also find some lingcod in the rocky areas. Location: N48°09′ x W123°38′.
The sand flat in the bay will hold halibut in 120 to 240 feet of water. Location: N48°10′ x W123°35′.
Coyote is located 13 miles from Ediz Hook and the Canadian border intersects Coyote Bank. If anglers don’t have a Canadian fishing license they’ll need watch their position on this bank. This is a great bank to fish for halibut, but is exposed to the weather. In addition to great halibut fishing, Coyote Bank also has a rocky top that produces some good lingcod fishing. Halibut can be caught as you drop off onto the sandy bottom along the edge of the bank. The sandy flats in the southwest corner of the bank hold halibut. Location: N48°17’30” x W123°14′.
Green Point is located 5.5 miles east of Ediz Hook. If you like to troll for halibut this is the place! Green Point is a long series of sandy flats starting about half a mile west of Green Point. Troll the 120 ft depth line on the flood tide, keeping the gear or bait right on or near the bottom. Halibut can be caught anywhere along here in 70 to 260 feet of water. Location: N48°09′ x W123°17′.
Bait and Tackle
My preferred setup for years has been fresh frozen horse herring (Purple& Black Label Size) off a spreader bar with 12 to 36 ounces of lead. If the dogfish are around, which they often are, my second go-to lure would be a large white Berkley Power Grub on a 6/0 J-hook. These have proven very deadly on halibut for me and they catch halibut and bottomfish up and down the coast.
I use a heavier rod with 50 to 80 pound super braid line. With very thin diameter and zero stretch it’s the only way to fish for halibut in deep water. For hooks I use a pair of 7/0 offshore J-hooks for all of my bait fishing. These are hand crimped on 80 pound clear leader or wire appropriately sized to the bait.
I have also this past year taken a liking to fishing Butterfly jigs for this halibut and bottomfish as they can be drifted very effectively across the bottom, and halibut really like to eat them! A big plus is that they off the advantage of fishing lighter tackle, as big, heavy tackle just isn’t necessary to fish the Butterfly jigs.
Take care in subduing a large Halibut that can easily injure or kill the unprepared angler. A hundred pounds of pure muscle can break bones and damage or even sink a small boat. I like to harpoon any halibut that’s over about 70 pounds and I make darned sure they are dead before bringing them in the boat.
Where to Launch
Port Angeles Boat Ramp is located on Ediz Hook next to the Coast Guard Station. This ramp is protected from weather and has ample parking. Make plans now to fish the Port Angeles annual halibut derby that’s held every year in May. For more information contact the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce at (360) 452-2363.