Halibut Guide

Halibut is super versatile in the kitchen, and a favorite with the whole family. In season it’s the most popular fish of the summer at Joe’s.

They are a member of the flatfish family, and generally look like flounder or fluke, with some obvious differences. One obvious difference is the size. Halibut is one of the largest species of fish, in fact only swordfish, tuna, and some species of shark grow larger. Whereas fluke and flounder are considered large at five pounds, halibut can grow to hundreds of pounds! The current verified halibut world record is a specimen taken off Norway in 2013 weighing in at 515 lbs.!

East Coast halibut arrives in the 10lb range. While Alaskan halibut are much larger in the 20/50lb range before being cut into filets at Joe’s.

Another reason halibut is fascinating is their metamorphosis. The babies develop symmetrically, with eyes on either side of their heads, and they swim at that time as do other fish. Then, around six months later, they undergo a metamorphosis and the eye on the white side, or what becomes the white side, migrates to the darker side right next to the other one! The fish becomes flat, that is, swims on its side – one side is dark (the top side) and the other side is white (the bottom side), and now both eyes are on one side of its head.

The East Coast halibut has a large natural range, from Greenland in the north, all along the Canadian Maritimes, to (rarely) Virginia. Most prefer the waters no further south than the Gulf of Maine. Halibut are bottom dwellers mostly, and they’re perfectly camouflaged when they bury themselves in the bottom, flat as can be, their dark side up, waiting for prey.

Alaskan halibut is just that, from the coast of Alaska.

Large halibut eat anything they can fit into their mouths, and they are voracious. Studies report finding cod, haddock, cusk, hake, herring, crabs, lobsters, clams, almost anything that’s available to them. Even an occasional seabird that dared dive too deep or lingered too long on the surface. They prefer the bottom but will go up as far as they have to for food.

Most of the Atlantic halibut nowadays come from Canada, mainly from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as recently as 2018 has deemed the Canadian East Coast halibut fishery healthy and sustainable. Furthermore, they found there is no detrimental impact to incidental bycatch species or the marine environment. It is a very healthy and environmentally aware fishery, and you can buy halibut online with confidence from FultonFishMarket.com and a clear conscience.

Alaskan halibut is one the most sustainable fish around and is very tightly managed.

What does halibut taste like?

Halibut is a thick, white fleshed fish, not as mild or as flaky as cod for example, but with a firmer texture and sweeter flavor. Frankly, maybe one of the most tasty and versatile fish around!