Longlining is a harvest method that involves trailing a long main line with hooks from a commercial fishing boat. In BC, bottom or “demersal”, longline gear is used to harvest groundfish species found in the Pacific Ocean. Hooks are baited to attract target species of fish and attached to a longline. Hooks are spaced out along the line at different intervals depending on the fishery. The hooks are baited with Salmon, Pollock, Herring, or Squid to attract the groundfish. Fish will be caught in the hook and hauled on board one at a time. In BC, the Sablefish and Halibut fisheries harvest using longline gear.

Longlines are set at deep depths and placed so they stretch over the ocean floor. They are anchored at each end and marked by surface buoys, poles, and flags. The hook size, spacing, fishing location, and fishing depth are different for the Halibut fishery and Sablefish fishery. The crew will set the gear and let it soak for an average of twelve hours before pulling the line on board one hook at a time. Fish are carefully hauled onboard and treated with pride and care to maintain their prime quality.

In the Wild Pacific Halibut fishery, the longline is one to two kilometres in length. The baited hooks are attached about six feet apart. The line is set at ocean depths of 75 and 550 metres. Each end of the longline is marked with a buoy and a flag at the water’s surface for the harvesters to easily locate the longline. The line is left to soak for two to 12 hours, it is then hauled up to the surface and each Halibut is brought on board one by one. Wild Pacific Halibut must be larger than the regulated minimum size to be harvested by commercial fishermen. They must be at least 24 inches head-off or at least 32 inches head-on. Any undersized fish must be returned to the water live. Halibut can be very large in size and may require multiple crew members to haul the fish on board. The Halibut fishery takes place for nine months of the year. Typically, the season runs from March to December and closes in the winter for spawning. Halibut trips can last anywhere from one to two weeks.

See more about the Halibut fishery. 

The Sablefish fishery takes place in deep coastal waters and approximately half of the catch is harvested using longline hook gear, with the remainder caught by longline trap gear. The longlines for Sablefish are approximately XYZ in length. The baited hooks are attached to the longline every three or four feet. The longlines are deployed off the Sablefish vessels and left to soak for about 24 hours with a maximum permitted soak of four days.

The longline is then hauled on board the vessel one hook at a time to retrieve the catch. There is a legal-size limit of 55 cm fork length for Sablefish. Fish that are sub-legal size must be returned to the water in a manner to cause the least harm. Sablefish do not have a swim bladder, so their survival after release is much higher than for species with a swim bladder when caught by longline hook or trap gears.

See more about the Sablefish fishery.