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Underwater hunting for halibut

By Simen Wilberg and Michael Byø

Are you going to hunt for halibut with a harpoon? Then you should familiarize yourself well with what makes it a humane hunt, while at the same time minimizing the chances of damage shooting. Hunting for halibut differs from all other underwater hunting. Before you start the hunt: All halibut over 200cm are totally protected and illegal to catch. The order to return halibut over 200cm is due to the risk of accumulation of heavy metals and other environmentally harmful substances in the fish. The minimum size is 84cm, because the aim is for more small fish to live until they are big enough to reproduce.

This article is written for underwater hunting for halibut of +10kg. Co-author is Michael Byø, who has been hunting for halibut with a harpoon for a number of years. He has first-hand knowledge of the best techniques and which equipment is recommended.

Photo: Michael Byø

Halibut can weigh up to 350 kg. It is a strong fish, but at the same time it is very loose in the flesh. It is a fish that evokes strong emotions. The bigger the halibut gets, the more people will think that it should not be eaten or hunted, for various reasons, the more we will concentrate on hunting for halibut with a harpoon, and how to minimize the chances of damage.


As with all flounder, the brain and neck are on one side of the head. This is where the harpoon arrow should hit. It will kill the fish in the shot, or paralyze it so that it cannot race away. It can be difficult to see this area, but you can create some guidelines that make it easier. Look for the halibut's halibut bow. Where the arch ends, you continue straight into the area where the brain and nerve center are located. Another method is to look out the fin at the gill cover. Midway between the root of this fin and the side fin you will find the ideal hitting point. See illustration below.


On halibut under 10kg, it is not so important which angle you have on the shot. As the halibut gets bigger, the angle of the shot becomes absolutely decisive for whether the arrow stays firmly enough. The shot should always be at an angle from the back and forwards towards the halibut's head. There are three reasons why this is important:

1. The arrow comes through the fish at an angle. There is then a much greater probability that the barb on the arrow will get all the way through the fish and can unfold, so that the arrow does not slip off the fish. This can easily happen if you shoot straight from the top down. If the fish is on a rocky bottom, the arrow will not get through completely, and you will lose the catch. If the halibut is on a sandy bottom, the flopper can also be prevented from releasing.

2. Better attachment. When the arrow is shot at an angle through the fish, it will get a better grip. The arrow now has a longer path through the fish and is more likely to hit a lethal or paralyzing area of ​​the fish.

3. You don't hit ideally, and the halibut escapes. The harpoon arrow is now in tow after the fish. This will cause the least damage to the halibut, thus minimizing the chances of it tearing itself off the arrow. If the arrow is now at the wrong angle, it will tear back and forth as the halibut escapes, and the chances of the catch being missed increase dramatically.


The halibut usually trusts itself, and stays put when you approach. If you have the opportunity, try to approach the halibut at an angle from behind. Then you also have the right shooting angle.

Photo: Michael Byø


Your rig is never stronger than its weakest point. This is EXTREMELY important to be aware of. It is no use braiding a new harpoon if the fishing line is missing or not sufficient, or if the harpoon line is worn and damaged. Always make sure all parts of your fishing rig are in good condition.

There are many different opinions about what kind of equipment is best for hunting halibut. Let's look at the most important thing first, namely the harpoon. It must be powerful and precise. The arrow must hit exactly where you aim, and with enough force to get the arrow right through the halibut. A harpoon of 95cm or more is recommended, and it should be rigged with two elastics.

The arrow must be between 7 and 8 mm thick. This provides precision and impact. An important part of the harpoon arrow is the barb. It should have a natural kink at the end, so that it does not so easily find its way back out through the bullet hole if it is not released. It should also meet some resistance in the triggered position so that it does not fall back down. The harpoon arrow can have either one or two barbs if you are going to hunt halibut. Avoid arrows with a large distance from the tip of the arrow to the end of the barb. Also make sure the barb is not too short. An alternative to regular harpoon arrows is a threaded arrow where you screw on a slip tip setup (an arrow with a loose tip connected to the arrow with wire). You can find this setup in the product recommendations further down in the article.

Do not use a reel. It will only lead to confusion and can make it difficult to secure the catch. You also get more joints in your rig, which opens up more weak points and potential breaks.

Line and buoy.
Use the signal yellow catch line. It is more than strong enough, while also having a certain elasticity and acting as a great shock absorber. Choose a buoy with a solid attachment point for the fishing line, here we can recommend JBL's fishing buoy.

Harpoon line
The harpoon line should be thick monofilament or harpoon wire. If you expect to find large halibut, always put on a new harpoon line before the hunt starts.

See our product recommendations further down in the article.


If you hunt specifically for large halibut in areas where there is a high chance of hitting large halibut, you should have a boat with a boat operator nearby at all times. In the boat there should be an extra set of buoy and harpoon ready for shot no. 2. Be careful when handling halibut over 20 kg. They have enormous powers with a short-lived but explosive energy. The halibut can seem quite calm when it sits on the arrow, but when you pull it onto the line it often wakes up and swims towards the depths. Here it is important to have control over all of the lines at all times so that you do not inadvertently get a new pers in a deep dive.

Be sure to thread a strong rope with a noose around the spur (tail) of the halibut as soon as possible. Then the catch is 100% guaranteed.

Photo: Aleksander Nordahl, ettpust.com

Handling of halibut in a boat

Always thread the fish onto the line before lifting it into the boat or dragging it ashore. This way you avoid destroying the arrow, and minimize the risk of the arrow causing damage to people and material. Turn the halibut over as soon as possible so that it lies belly up. Then it finds peace quite quickly and accepts its fate.


If you are diving from land without a boat: Familiarize yourself with the area, halibut are often hunted in areas where there are not large differences in depth. If you plan to dive to a maximum of 10 meters in an area with a maximum depth of 20 metres, you should have a minimum of 25 meters of buoy line (preferably 30 metres), then the resistance will be less if the halibut pulls towards the bottom as it does not have to drag the buoy under. Check that you are clear of the buoy line before you shoot. Don't try to hold back the halibut, it will go full throttle no matter how much resistance it gets. In the worst case, you lose both the halibut and the equipment. Have an extra harpoon hanging behind the buoy with a large snap hook that you can easily snap around the buoy line before swimming down and securing the catch with shot no. 2. In a dead state, the halibut is almost weightless in water, so there is no need to use buoys with an unnecessarily large volume. But if you dive in places that are very deep, it may be a good idea to use a foam-filled buoy that does not collapse if the halibut pulls it down 10-20 m. Possibly a buoy that can have a large excess pressure.

Last but not least: Know your own limits and the limits of your equipment. If you're looking for a pet for your mother-in-law's cat, and happen to come across a halibut the size of a dining table, it's probably a good idea to see it as a "once in a lifetime" opportunity. Give it a loving pat with your hands and feel the strength as it takes off from the bottom.



FRIVANNSLIV® Hunter is a powerful aluminum harpoon and the only aluminum harpoon in our range that we recommend for hunting halibut (with the exception of roller models). FRIVANNSLIV® Tactical Carbon and FRIVANNSLIV® Tactical Carbon Premium are top models in carbon that provide very good precision due to the carbon tube. The Salvimar Tomahawk is a roller harpoon, i.e. the harpoon string is spanned over both sides of the harpoon, and this gives a lot of power with a shorter length but is a more technical set-up for those who want it. These models are in aluminium. The JBL Euro Woody is a rock solid wooden harpoon and a classic.


When hunting halibut, choose arrows that are at least 7mm thick. You can choose powerful standard arrows such as Salvimar Pacific 7.5mm and Salvimar Pacific 8mm , or an arrow with a threaded tip such as Salvimar Pacific 7mm with threads , where you also mount a slip tip setup , a loose, threaded arrowhead where the arrowhead is attached to the arrow with a wire.

If you want a package with arrow, slip tip, shock absorber, harpoon line and clamps , you will find it here . This is great if you already have a powerful harpoon but need the rest of the rig. If you state which harpoon you have, we can mount the arrow for you .


The minimum size for Atlantic halibut is 84 cm. Converted to weight, this corresponds to approx. 5.5 kg in total, 5.0 kg gutted with head and 4.0 kg gutted and hooded. The reason for minimum size regulations is that more small fish should be allowed to live until they are large enough to reproduce. In 2017, a maximum size of 200cm was introduced and this is still valid in 2023. All catch over 200cm must be returned to the sea, even if the fish is dying, this rule is due to the risk of accumulation of heavy metals and other environmentally harmful substances in the fish.

You can find a complete list of minimum sizes for catching fish here .

As with all spearfishing, go after the fish you want to eat, be selective, and adhere to regional and national conservation and minimum size limits. You can read more about this on the websites of the Directorate of Fisheries and the Institute of Marine Research .

Good hunt!

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