Halibut Harpoon Setup for a Kayak

I was giving my harpoon a good look-over today to make sure it is all in order because HALIBUT IS OPEN in Washington!!! I have been waiting since it closed last year for this. The weather has been bad, but it looks like it is going to be better here soon.

First off, if you are considering kayak fishing for halibut, know the regulations, and even more importantly, know your limits. It is NOT for beginners. I’m working on an in depth article about what you can do to prepare if you are interested, but know that it takes time and experience to approach kayak fishing for halibut safely. Hopefully it doesn’t seem like I’m bragging here – just want people to stay safe.

Last year I spent months making leaders, sharpening hooks, hoarding bait, sitting in my kayak on the garage floor pretending to harpoon fish… this year has been weird wondering if it would open or not. We are moving soon, so we have been really busy and it came up fast. There’s nothing like getting everything together in one afternoon.

Anyway, here’s my setup for a kayak harpoon. It has worked successfully several times and I don’t plan on changing anything. It’s very similar to a lot of other setups with a few modifications that I really like. I think it’s definitely worth taking a look at if you’re building a harpoon setup for your kayak.

I started with a regular wood halibut harpoon.

You can probably get almost all of the info you need just from the picture, but here are the main modifications I made:

I cut the shaft and drove it into a crab float

Another option is to attach small floats to the back end of the harpoon. It’s preference. I found this crab float on a river bottom and it was sitting around. The benefit that I really like, though, that I didn’t foresee, is that when it’s strapped onto the side of my kayak, it’s easier to grab with my hand because the float creates a small gap. Also, when I accidentally dropped it after harpooning a halibut last year, it bobbed up and down vertically and was very easy to find after I landed my halibut. It was surprisingly far away and may have been hard to find otherwise.

To decide what length you want the harpoon, sit on your kayak on the floor and pretend to use the harpoon. Just don’t let anyone catch you on video. Know that the fish will be a foot or so underwater.

I cut the harpoon shaft to the length I wanted and then just drove it into this crab float.
Halibut in a Kayak
If you look on the left side of this photo, you will see the harpoon strapped in. I like the small gap that the harpoon float creates between the shaft of the harpoon and my kayak.

For those of you that have caught halibut and/or also notice details, you might have noticed that in the photo above, the harpoon tip is on top of the fish. It was a long battle with a lot of current, and by the time the fish came up and flattened out, it was upside down. So I harpooned it through the bottom. That spot, though, is where I would harpoon a halibut every time from a kayak (if my aim is good). There is a lot of meat there for the tip to hold, but it’s soft enough that it goes through easily enough. I’ve found it to be a difficult, awkward task when the time comes and the fish is right next to you. Rod in one hand, harpoon in the other, trying to manage your float and rope so you don’t get tangled…. all the more reason to practice on your garage floor.

I added a short piece of shock/bungee cord

This is so that when a fish takes off downward and suddenly, the resistance won’t pull the harpoon tip through it’s body. This is especially prone to happen if you harpoon the fish in a softer area like the belly. It hasn’t happened to me, but I have heard stories and I know it’s more common when people harpoon a halibut from their boat and the harpoon tip is just attached to a cleat on the boat.

Everything else is with my harpoon is fairly standard, but here are some close up photos to show some detail:

I put two rubber bands on the shaft. That way if one cracks or breaks I have a backup.
I used duct tape to cover any sharp spots so they won’t cut my line or my hand.

If this is all new to you, I would recommend looking at some other harpoon setups and try hard to think everything through. Which side do you fight fish on? Which hand will your rod be in and which hand will you used to harpoon? How will you get the fish flat? How will you make sure that your float and rope don’t get stuck to anything?

For me the order of operations is:

  1. I put the harpoon tip on my harpoon and get it all set BEFORE I start fishing.
  2. Fight fish up on left side of kayak but I bring my line around to the right side of my kayak once it is getting close (make sure you think through which side the fish will be on and which hand you will harpoon with).
  3. Get harpoon in my lap and make sure line and float are untangled and free from the kayak.
  4. When the fish gets really close, I switch the rod to my left hand, grab the harpoon in my right hand, pedal forward to flatten the fish out, shove my harpoon float off into the water next to me, then harpoon the fish. That way the rope and float can’t get stuck to your kayak.

To those who are headed out kayak fishing for halibut, I really hope to see you out there. Good luck and be safe!

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