When I anchor up on a halibut spot in Alaska I like to immediately get some some meat in the water to start a scent trail. These are the rods you want up current typically in the bow of the boat, unless the wind and tide are opposite of each other and your sitting sideways in the trough.
I take a large 16/0 circle hook and throw on a 6″ chunk of fresh pink salmon or Pacific cod with a herring. Wiring the herring to your hook with some stainless or copper wire first works well to keep small fish from steeling the smelly prize. These meat rods as I like to call them fish well unattended as circle hooks don’t require a hook set. You can simply set the drag to about 5-lbs and put the clicker on so you can here a halibut taking line if you’re not paying attention.
Many people miss halibut by trying to set circle hooks. The trick is to just keep tension on the line and once the halibut has the bait in mouth and turns to run…that’s when the circle hook rolls into the cheek or jaw – and that’s when you can start cranking on the fish. Any jerking or fast reeling will typically just pull a circle hook out of a halibut’s mouth before it has a chance to roll the sharp point through some lip.
After I get the meet rods out I’ll set up some jigs on the back deck. Many times you can get a halibut to come to the bate but if she’s not teased and tantalized sometimes she wont bite and that’s where jigging can get’er done. I like to think of a halibut like a cat. You can throw a piece of fur tied to a string in front of a cat but it won’t pounce until you tease it by jerking the string. Halibut fishing in Alaska can be the same way – sometimes halibut won’t bite until they are properly teased or they think the jig is going to get away . If the bite’s on you just need to get your hook down there, but if the halibut aren’t interested they will just swim away if you get lazy and let them….