Maine Seafood Guide – Halibut
Atlantic halibut Hypoglossus hypoglossus
Wild, although small quantities of halibut are cultured by Maine Halibut Farms.
The Atlantic halibut is a large, bottom-dwelling flatfish that ranges from Labrador to southern New England. Learn more about the history of halibut fishing from the Downeast Fisheries Trail.
May-June (state waters); year-round (Gulf of Maine). Aside from a limited spring fishery with hook and line, there is no targeted commercial fishery for halibut in Maine. Groundfishermen working in federal waters are allowed to land one halibut per trip; these incidentally-caught fish provide the majority of the fish sold in markets.
The coastwide population of Atlantic halibut is overfished, but overfishing is no longer occurring and the stock is subject to a long-term rebuilding plan.
Maine Department of Marine Resources regulates harvest in state waters (within three miles of shore). Gulf of Maine halibut are managed by the New England Fishery Management Council under the Northeast Multispecies (groundfish) Plan.
In state waters, there is a minimum size limit of 41 inches and a yearly vessel limit of five fish per year during the May 1 – June 30 season, and use only 14/0, 15/0, or 16/0 circle hooks. All retained fish shall immediately be tagged with an approved landings tag to help DMR track the population; call 207-624-6550 for more information. Halibut can be fished year-round in federal waters, with a limit of one fish per day.
Halibut is a low-fat, low-calorie source of selenium and vitamin D, but is lower in omega-3 fatty acids than other fish. Mercury levels vary in halibut, depending on fish size and age, but are generally below safety limits.
In Maine, groundfish are landed primarily at the Portland Fish Exchange and then distributed to local seafood markets. A few cooperatives are emerging that sell local halibut directly to consumers, such as Port Clyde Fresh Catch. As with other finfish, look for firm flesh, a fresh non-fishy smell, and clear eyes if buying whole. “Local” halibut is only available in May and June; during the rest of the year, halibut comes from the groundfishery in federal waters (> three milles offshore).
Port Clyde Fresh Catch
Maine Halibut Farms
Halibut information from Maine Department of Marine Resources