A halibut is a type of flatfish. Fishes bearing the name halibut live in both the North Pacific and the North Atlantic Oceans, and are highly-regarded food fish. The Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis, has been known to attain a weight of over 500 pounds (230 kg) and can be eight feet (2.4 m) or greater in length. Like the flounders, adult halibut typically have both eyes on the right side of the head.
In Canadian and U.S. waters of the North Pacific, halibut are taken by longline, using chunks of octopus ("devilfish") or other bait on hooks attached at regular intervals to a weighted line which can extend for several miles across the bottom. Typically the fishing vessel hauls gear after several hours to a day has passed. Careful international management of Pacific halibut is necessary, as the species occupies the waters of the United States, Canada, Russia, and possibly Japan, and is a slow-maturing fish. Halibut do not reproduce until age eight, when they are approximately 30 inches (76 cm) long, so capture of fish below this length is an unsustainable practice and is against U.S. and Canadian regulations.
The commercial halibut fishery in the North Pacific dates to the late 19th century, but halibut have been an important food source to Native Americans and Native Canadians for thousands of years. There is also a significant sport fishery in Alaska and British Columbia. Halibut are not known as fighting fish, but their size and the weather conditions that often prevail in their native waters can make them a dangerous quarry.
Other species of halibut include:
- Atlantic Halibut, Hippoglossus hippoglossus
- California Halibut, Paralichthys californicus
- Greenland Halibut, Reinhardtius hippoglossoides
- Australian Halibut, Parastromateus niger