When I was a kid we would always go to the same fish and chips place when we went to visit my grandmother. It was called Pajo’s, and had amazing halibut fish and chips. A few years later, I saw a halibut for the first time. I was shocked. I had no idea how ridiculously massive these fish are. The sight of a halibut on the docks just blew my mind, and I’ve never quite forgotten that feeling of awe.
There are two species of halibut, of Atlantic and Pacific varieties. They live in the northern hemisphere, and are bottom-dwelling fish. Like many bottom feeders, halibut are flat. They also get ludicrously large – the record for a caught halibut is 515 pounds, with the fish being over nine feet long. Unsurprisingly, the halibut is largest flatfish in the world.
Despite their massive size and silly shape, halibut are very good swimmers. They use this ability to catch their prey, which can consist of a variety of sea animals, including cod, pollock, octopi and salmon. They also migrate long distances, in a clockwise direction, and reproductive fish migrate seasonally from relatively shallow feeding grounds to deeper waters in which to spawn.
In Pacific halibut, spawning occurs in the winter, while Atlantic halibut spawn in the spring. Spawning occurs in deep waters (600-1500ft), and females can lay up to half a million eggs per year. When they are born, the young halibut look like normal fish, and simply float in the water, letting the currents guide them through life. During this stage, something creepy happens to these little guys. See, somehow the baby halibut have to end up flat, with both eyes on one side of its body. So the halibut’s left eye actually migrates across its head, until one day it ends up in the correct place. I guess that’s why halibut have such funny faces.
As you probably know, halibut are delicious. Unfortunately, most of the world has realized this, and halibut have been fished heavily as a result. In the Atlantic, halibut have been fished nearly to extinction. So try to refrain from eating too much of this delightful fish. Although they are so delicious that I won’t hold it against you, I promise.
Cover image By Unknown author – NOAA FishWatch (see Gallery), Public Domain