Sole (Rock, Dover, and English Sole)
As large, delicious, and highly nutritious fish that dwell on the ocean floor, flatfish like halibut and flounder are highly valued food fish of coastal cultures specialized in open-water ocean fishing. Archeological remains identifying human use found flatfish from Oregon to Alaska .
Halibut are reported to have been caught most commonly during the milder months of spring and summer and sometimes fall [1, 6, 12-14, 24, 31, 38, 40, 48, 50-52, 54, 56, 62, 63, 65], however, the fish were available most of the year in some regions [1, 24, 57, 60, 64]. They were usually caught at off shore halibut banks [2, 7, 18, 28, 29, 38, 54, 56]. The Makah, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) and Haida caught them off the banks of Washington and in Dixon’s Entrance, north of the Queen Charlotte Islands . The Nootka Aht caught them near shore and a few miles off land from March through June. The fishing tribes on either side of Juan de Fuca Strait “drove away any other tribes which had not been accustomed to fish on the halibut banks” . The Coast Tsimshian caught them in the deep seas off the Islands of Porcher, Dundas and Banks . The People of Port Simpson (Tsimshian) caught them all year-round in channels and strong tide eddies . The Makah caught them on the halibut banks off Cape Flattery. These sites could be owned by a Makah headman and his family . The Puget Sound culture caught the fish in the Upper Sound waters . The Tlingit caught them on the outer coast and in Cross Sound and Chatham Strait .
Some of the Northern and Central Nootka journeyed to villages on the outer beaches and set up halibut fishing camps there. The men would go to the halibut banks where many of them had their favorite spots, which they located using individual landmarks . The Nootka of Vancouver Island found off-shore halibut banks by using landmarks such as mountain peaks . The Nootka fishermen left early in the morning so they could be “on the banks at dawn before the wind came up” . The Tsimshian fished in May when they were camped at special seaweed camps where they stayed to gather and dry seaweed . The cultures of the prehistoric coast of Washington stayed at coastal fishing camps near the mouth of Hoko River and caught halibut . During milder months (April to November), Quileute would divide into small groups and travel upriver or along the coast to regions where the family had hereditary fishing privileges and set up camp . The Nuxalk went on special journeys to catch halibut [41, 42]. The South Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw) would move and set up camps behind Malcolm Island to catch and dry halibut . The Kwakiutl, Tlingit and Coast Salish journeyed in canoes to halibut fishing grounds where they caught halibut [19, 40, 51, 64]. The cultures of South Alaska and Northern British Columbia set up summer camps near their favourite banks to catch halibut . In early summer, cultures of the North Pacific Coast journeyed to regions near the open sea to prime halibut grounds on beds off the outer beaches . When the Nootka Aht went halibut fishing, several canoes, laden with one or two men, departed at midnight for the fishing ground so that they would reach there in the morning .
Halibut were caught with a halibut hook and line/net/pole, nets, jigs and rigs [1, 2, 4, 6-8, 13, 14, 17, 21-24, 29, 32, 34, 35, 38-40, 43, 46, 48, 51, 54, 56, 57, 60, 61, 65, 66].
Inuit used a hook and line. The hook was composed of a straight barbed point attached to a bent stem of wood or bone. The line was made of connected baleen strips or of certain types of algae and was made long enough for the deep waters where halibut reside .
When the Nootka fished for halibut, they used split skinned octopus tentacles as bait, fastening the octopus tentacles to a unique carved halibut hook made of dense heartwood of hemlock, fir or balsam, all heavy woods, so the hook was able to sink in the water. The line used was made of long kelp stems and was approximately 30 fathoms long “because the halibut banks are at 15 to 20 fathoms”. The Nootka caught halibut in three ways: 1) Four men in a large canoe: a hand lining was used (by four men) where halibut were plentiful and bit quickly – in earlier times, this was practiced using a single hook and line, but more recently, to catch more fish commercially, a pair of hooks separated by a very long spreader pole was used, 2) One man in a tiny canoe: the canoe was anchored to a bank, two poles were angled over the front sides, with a third pole sometimes placed above the stern; lines were attached to each pole, 3) Drift line fishing: In this method, lines were fastened to a seal bladder float, and the lines had a bigger seal bladder marker float “several fathoms up the length”. The fisherman, and his assistant if he had one, laid the drift lines one at a time so they glided over the halibut bank. When the halibut swallowed a hook, the tinier first float moved or sunk and the bigger marker float remained visible. The halibut was reeled up, hit with a heavy yew club and slipped into the canoe. If the halibut was very large, the canoe was tilted to the water line to slide the halibut in. Of note, when smaller hooks were used, huge halibut were caught and when bigger hooks were used, tiny halibut were caught, but no one could explain why .
The Nootka and Quileute caught halibut using a halibut hook and line but no sinker. The hook had a whale mouth bone barb, which was fastened to the hook using whale sinew on one end, and sinew and root at the other end. A large salmon was attached to the barb as bait. When the halibut was caught, they slaughtered it using a club “made of heavy wood, and the club head was carved to represent that of a sea-lion like animal”. According to their tradition, this animal was said to be like a sea lion and to “have a tail with long points like bear’s claws. It cuts off the head of a seal with one swish of its tail, and eats the head, leaving the rest” .
The Northern and Central Nootka used hook and line to catch halibut using octopus as bait. When fishing for halibut, the anchor used was a heavy stone with a kelp line. The fisherman threw the anchor in and when it hit the bottom, he tied the line to the canoe seat. He then baited his hook with a portion of skinned octopus tentacle and lowered the hook attached to a sinker until he sensed the sinker touch bottom and then hauled the line a bit to prevent it from being entangled in debris. He then tied the line to a short flexible pole lying on the top edge of the side of the canoe and which was fastened to a canoe thwart using cedar rope. This was done because halibut take time before they bite, so it was less wearisome to tie the line to a pole instead of holding the line by hand. He then sat and watched his poles for any jerky movement, at which point, he hauled in the halibut .
The Nootka of Vancouver Island used rigs with u-shaped hooks made of heavy wood. To locate off-shore halibut banks, they used landmarks such as mountain peaks . The Nootka Aht used a hook and a long line with clams or tiny fish for bait. The hook was made of Douglas fir or yew and bone and was barbless, and the line was made of seaweed and had a leader made of woven twigs or deer sinew. The line also had bladders attached to it. When fishing, they dragged the line slowly behind the canoe, with the hook buried in deep water. When the halibut surfaced, the fisherman speared it and towed it toward the canoe with the aid of bladders attached to the line where it was clubbed .
The Haida caught halibut with a v-shaped hook and line using octopus or cuttlefish as bait . The line was made of cedar bark, giant kelp or vegetable fibre treated to make them flexible and the line was connected to a wood float in the form of a carved aquatic bird and a stone stinker. The fisherman usually watched several lines at once from a canoe anchored to a rock. When the halibut took the bait, it was dragged up, toyed with, drawn beside the boat, wrestled into the boar, and clubbed [1, 48].
The cultures of the prehistoric coasts of Washington caught halibut with a bent wood u-shaped hook with a bone point of the Southern Northwest Coast, the Haihais utilized the v-shaped hook of the Northwest Coast, the Oowekeeno (Hieltsuk) utilized the u-shaped hook of the central Coast, the Bella Bella (Hieltsuk) utilized both the v-shaped and u-shaped hook and the Haisla caught them with a 2 piece v-shaped hook [32, 34, 61]. In earlier times, the Tsimshian caught them by jigging using a halibut hook with a bone barb and in later times, since at least the 80s, they caught them with modern halibut gear. They used herring or octopus as bait . The Kyuquot used a u-shaped hook, but in more recent times, since at least the 1980s, they caught them by trolling . The Bella Coola (Nuxalk) caught halibut with a jig which had a hook made of grizzly bear bones or whale bones and a stinging nettle line . The Makah used u-shaped hooks and kelp lines and the Kitimat (Haisla) used dip nets [46, 54].
The Coast Salish are reported to have used u- or v- shaped hooks made of bent hardwood including hardhack, crab apple or yew, or hemlock-root. The hooks were often attached in twos, one at each end of a slim rod to which a main fishing line was fastened at the centre [2, 8, 66]. The line was made of cedar or willow bark fibre (around Victoria of the Strait of Georgia, kelp fibre was another option). They did not use floats. They attached a sinker (usually a smooth rock wrapped in cherry bark) permanently to the line to maintain the hook just a bit off the sea bottom . The Central Coast Salish used u-shaped hooks and octopus bait . The Kwakiutl caught them using hooks connected to kelp fish lines which had a leader made of plaited hair [17, 43]. The hook had a sinker, the upper portion of the hook was kept afloat with a bladder or wood buoy and the hook was baited with cuttlefish . The cultures of the North Pacific Coast caught them using hook and lines made of giant kelp stems .
In ancient times, the Tlingit used a wood hook with a bone barb, the hook being attached to a rawhide, cedarbark, spruceroot or kelp line [21, 51]. The hook was a Northern-style halibut hook which was made of two pieces of wood fastened together, one of the pieces of wood (the upper piece) had a sharp bone point (in later times, an iron spike). This upper arm was made of buoyant yellow cedar and the lower piece was carved with a figure to attract the fish and the lower piece was made of heavier alder wood. The fisherman augmented the effectiveness of the figure using ritualized speech. One hook or a score of hooks was/were connected to a mainline and to each end of the line they attached heavy rocks for sinkers. They lowered this line using another line, at the top of which was a distended seal’s bladder to indicate where the line was down. The hooks connected to the main line were baited with clams or pieces of any kind of fish including octopus, and sometimes red salmon, and were transported out to sea near sand and mud banks, where the fisherman lowered the main line and kept them there for half a day before drawing them to the surface. Usually two men would set out in a canoe and set many lines (from 12 to 15) and then watch them. When the halibut was baited, it was reeled in to the surface, clubbed on the head using a club made of extremely heavy wood and carved with emblematic figures and put in the canoe. The more lines set, the more men were needed. As a result, usually all men of the house travelled to small islands and rocks where they set up camp. These trips were dangerous and stories were told of narrow escapes and supernatural aid given to the fishermen of ancient times. In recent times, at least in the 1970s, they used steel hooks and cotton lines [21, 40, 51].
The Coast Tsimshian listed offshore halibut banks as lineage property (Tsimshian lineages possessed ownership rights to fish from “geographically defined properties”). Lineage heads had the power and made use of this power to designate specific regions as exclusive and transfer them as “private property to successors” . Halibut fishing started in April for Nootka men whose chiefs possessed the halibut fishing grounds .
Halibut is thick and meaty; the flesh is described as firm, sweet and white. Halibut was good for drying and storing and a whole halibut was enough to feast a whole village [11, 62]. The flesh was consumed boiled, barbecued, broiled, baked, steamed, fried, roasted, dried and smoked, the latter two methods typically used to preserve it [6, 8, 10-12, 14-17, 23, 25, 27, 31, 35, 38, 39, 44-46, 48, 50, 51, 54, 58, 60, 62-64].
The head, tail, fins, stomach, gills, backbone, skin and roe were also eaten by several cultures [11, 15, 22, 27, 35, 36, 39, 48-50]. The Nootka, Haida, Quileute, Coast Salish, cultures of the Northwest Coast and Southern/Southeast Alaska, Tlingit, Kwakiutl also ate the head [11, 15, 22, 27, 35, 36, 39, 48-50]. The Tlingit ate the tails and dorsal fin, the cultures of Southeast Alaska the cheeks, the South Kwakiutl the skin, the Nootka Kwakiutl the tails and fins, and the Kwakiutl the fins, stomach, gills, backbone, skin and roe [15, 27, 35, 36, 39].
The flesh was typically dried or smoked in the summer, various cultures drying it on their summer fishing camps on outdoor racks in the sun or smoking it after it had been cleaned and sliced by the women [11, 12, 14, 17, 25, 27, 31, 38, 46, 48, 50, 51, 54, 58, 60, 63, 64].
The Nootka sundried the fish for later use, the Northern and Central Nootka sun-dried it, cutting it first “in the same fashion as that described in detail by the Kwakiutl”  before placing it on outside racks for about one or two days, then laid on clean gravel [6, 23, 44]. The Nootka ate the dried halibut with sea lion oil, the Nishga ate it with eulachon oil and the Kwakiutl ate it with slivers of boiled seal head blubber, breaking the halibut into morsel [15, 44, 45]. The Haida, Makah and Tlingit ate smoked halibut with eulachon oil; the Haida typically had breakfasts consisting of dried halibut and boiled seaweed, which they are reported to have at dawn [48, 58].
To dry the fish, the Kyuquot quartered the carcass, sliced it and hung the slices on a bar in the sun. Young children typically protected the drying fish from cats and crows . British Columbia Haida women dried the fish by cutting off the head, cutting along the back and removing the entrails, fins and tail, slicing the remaining carcass and hanging the slices on frames to sundry or to smoke above a slow fire . Haida, Makah and Tlingit women cleaned the halibut on the beach and cut the fish into small slices and hang the pieces on a drying rack after squeezing out most of the moisture with weights . South Alaska and Northern British Columbia women cleaned and dried the fish. They severed the head and removed the entrails and backbone and cut off the fins and tail. They cut the fish into long slices, then sun-dried them on wood racks or hung them in smokehouses. They placed the dried halibut in chests or boxes or encased them in bark to store them .
The Tlingit boiled or broiled the halibut for immediate use and gave the rest away as gifts to relatives, or preserved them for later use by drying them. They cut them in half down the back, took out the vertebrae and hung the carcasses of the fish on long sticks to sun-dry or cured them in smoke houses. They fed the backbone and heads to the dogs . When the halibut was cut for preservation, the Tlingit cut it with the belly up. They made a cut from below the mouth, along the stomach and beside the gills and pushed the flesh to the backbone. They discarded the intestines. The stomach was wrung and kept aside. The tail and head were severed and the remaining carcass was sliced and placed on a drying frame to dry in the sun. The tails were processed separate from the carcass: they were skewed on tiny sticks and dried and smoked separately. The Tlingit considered the head, tails and dorsal fin delicacies .
The People of Port Simpson’s preparation methods have changed over time. In ancient times, they roasted halibut, fried it in eulachon oil, boiled it in a bent wood container using hot stones and, and steamed and baked it in a pit. More recently halibut was fried in a cast iron pot, or was baked, or boiled. Halibut was preserved in ancient times by drying or smoking. More recently it was preserved by freezing, drying, jarring, and smoking. When smoked, the bones and skin were highly prized . The cultures of Southeast Alaska boiled the fish in salt water, seal or ooligan oil and used a wild onion or various herbs for flavouring . The Coast Salish baked or barbecued halibut and those cultures with access to an abundance of them, dried halibut for winter consumption [8, 11]. They consumed the dried halibut as jerky or they simmered it in water or used it to make chowder. The flesh was also barbecued cut in pieces and skewered on iron wood spits or metal skewers. They angled the skewers over a fir, with the tips touching the single pole rack and the bases a few meters from the coals. The single pole rack was made using hardwood sapling poles. Two of the poles were anchored in a v fashion in the ground, and another two poles placed in a v in the ground a few feet apart and another pole was placed on horizontally on top of the two vs. The flesh was also baked. They would bake 5- or 6-pound halibut roasts in imu pits/pit fires. The imus are fires made in a pit or trench excavated from beach gravel. Into the pit, stones were added and then a fire started using cedar tinder. When the fire was burning well, alder was added. The coals formed were laid out on the rocks. Once the heat was immense, the coals and some of the hot rocks were laid to one side. The fish was wrapped in leaves, preferably iron wood leaves, but maple leaves or ferns could also be used. The leaves of the iron wood bush were said to add more flavor to the fish. The covered fish was placed on the hot rocks and coals, to which green sand-free seaweed had been placed. The seaweed was also used to cover the fish, and gravel was placed on top. Halibut cheeks were a delicacy and the head used to make soup and chowder. To make halibut chowder, the head was added to soup along with any vegetables on hand. Dried seaweed was usually added to thicken and salt the soup .
The Kwakiutl wife prepared the first halibut caught using four different knives: the fin-knife, cutting knife, flaking knife, and the splitting knife. She cut off the gills, gutted the fish, turned the stomach inside out, removed the pectoral fins, skinned the fish, cut along the spine and removed the flesh. She then severed the head and the ribs and tied the ribs together and placed them over a fireplace in the house. She placed four fins in each pair of roasting tongs, and wrapped the top of the tongs in cedar bark twine and placed the tongs in a make-shift rack-type and angled the rack and on a makeshift oven on the beach to roast: the oven was stones placed on a driftwood fire. While the stones were extremely hot, she removed some of the wood remaining on the fire using her tongs and laid old eel grass on the hot stones, then placed the stomach, head, any remaining fins, part of the backbone, the tail and the “apron-part” on the hot stones under the old eel grass, poured water over the halibut parts and covered all so that steam could not escape. She discarded the guts, liver and slime into the sea. The flesh was not split until the following day because “it was not good if they were still split while they were still fresh”. When the halibut parts had finished steaming, she summoned anyone walking on the beach to have a seat around the steaming receptacle and once they had arrived, she uncovered the steaming halibut parts and laid a mat as a receptacle for bones and fat skin. The guests ate with their hands directly from the stones and threw the bones and fat skin on the refuse mat. After the guests had finished eating she hung the skin over a fire inside the house. The first halibut was always steamed, “for it is said that the halibut know that the one who caught them first is thankful for it; and it is said that if the one who caught halibut first does not cook it the right way, he will not have another. The fisherman will go out in vain trying to fish halibut”. Halibut were fished in the fall when they were extremely fat. The wife removed the stomach and gills, severed the head, cut off the lower jaw and spread the head out. She hung the ribs above the fireplace in the house. She split the stomach and gills open and spread them over a pole on the beach and in the house over a fire to dry them and spread the fins on the beach to dry. She tied the “rough edges” at the ends and spread them over a pole on the beach to dry. She cut the tail down the side and spread it over poles in the air on the beach and she hung the “apron-part” in the air to dry. She laid the flesh carcass on a cutting board with the skin lying on the board and the flesh facing up and skinned the carcass using a splitting knife. She hung the “torn-off edges” (the part of the halibut that could not be skinned) over poles in the air. The next day she thinly cut the halibut in pieces and hung them lengthwise on a pole in the air. Alternatively, the slices were dried over a fire. The dried halibut was stored in baskets for the winter [15, 17]. Sometimes, the halibut head and backbone were eaten boiled and the husband’s friends invited to eat this dish. The wife would use an axe to chop the head and backbone into large pieces and place them in a kettle to boil. She then ladled the contents into individual dishes and gave them individual spoons. When they found a bone, they placed it in individual small dishes called “receptacle for the bones”. When they are done with the larger dish, they place the small dish in front of them and chewed on the bones, sucking the fat and spitting the sucked bone. Halibut heads were not eaten in the morning because with a lot of fat “it made one sleepy”. Halibut “tips” were boiled in a kettle for a long time, after which oil was then added to the kettle if the guests were going to eat out of the kettle. When there were several guests, she ladled the halibut and the stock in individual dishes and then placed oil in each dish. They ate the halibut and the stock using individual spoons. This dish was served in the morning, noon or evening. If it was served at morning, only a little oil was placed in the dish, at other times, a lot of oil was placed until it was “covered with oil”. When no dried salmon was available for breakfast, dried halibut was eaten. The dried halibut was broken into halves and served in communal dishes and oil was poured on it. The person highest in rank began eating and then the rest followed. A dish of mixed half-dried halibut skin and half-dried halibut was a dish eaten by the Kwakiutl. Slices of half-dried halibut skin and half-dried halibut would be boiled to make balls containing one slice of halibut skin and one slice of halibut. They did not dip the balls in oil since the skin contained a lot of fat. This dish was served only to the highest-ranking men. Blistered half-dried halibut was also eaten by men of high rank, which the fisherman had invited to his house. The wife blistered the half-dried halibut by the fire and broke it into morsels after cooling it slightly with sprinkles of water and placed these on the mat and poured oil over them. The guests ate the morsels, dipping them in the oil dish. Boiled dried halibut was also eaten. This halibut was hard and tough, and was rolled into a ball, placed in a kettle, covered it with water and weighted with a flat sandstone to submerge it. The kettle was placed on the fire and boiled for long until the halibut was “soaked through”. She used tongs to remove the fish and place it in a dish. Scorched halibut skin was also eaten: after the skin had been dried, it was placed with tongs until the fat began to cook, and then scorched the inner side and the back until it was all blistered. She placed the scorched skin on her food mat, rolled up the mat, and trampled it for an extensive period to soften the halibut skin and remove the scorched bits. She broke the scorched skin in morsels and placed them on the food mat to be eaten. Poked halibut skin was also eaten when the skin had been kept an extensive time and the skin fat had reddened. She cut the skin in pieces, placed it in a kettle of boiling water, and used her tongs to “poke down on top of the skin” to keep it submerged, thus the name “poked skin”. After it had boiled for long until she felt that it was “soaked”, she used her tongs to take it out and place it in a tiny dish, and the poked halibut skin was eaten with the hands while still hot because it became tough when cold. Boiled halibut edges were also consumed. When there were several halibut edges starting to dry, they were tied in the middle using cedar bark strips and the owner invited the chiefs. When they had all assembled, the wife took a couple bundles of halibut edges and placed them in a kettle, filled the kettle with water until half full, covered the kettle with a mat and placed it on the fire. The chiefs would sing songs until the cooking was complete. The bundles of halibut edges were removed and eaten with hands. Roasted halibut edges were also prepared and consumed in a similar fashion. Dried halibut head was consumed in winter if they could not catch fresh halibut. The wife soaked the dried halibut head in the fishing canoe of her husband” for four days and then placed the dried halibut heads to fill a kettle that was then filled with water and boiled. This dish was only for the “owners-that is the woman, her husband and her children”. Dried halibut stomach and fins were prepared similarly and boiled slowly for a morning. Afterward, the dried stomach was placed on a cedar board and cut into tiny pieces, and re-boiled until evening. Halibut eggs were half dried and boiled in a small kettle over a fire for a long time. The cooked eggs were spooned onto a tiny dish and consumed with the hands. Men did not usually eat the halibut eggs. The “middle piece of halibut” with “the fat that is under the skin was prepared and eaten. The meat just on top of the backbone” was placed in a roasting tong made of red pine, and the roasting tong wrapped in cedar bark twine at the top “so that the tongs may not spread when they get hot” and placed the tongs by the fire .
Apart from the flesh, the Nootka-Kwakiutl also ate steamed halibut heads, tails and fins [36, 37]. The Quileute and Nootka ate the halibut heads steamed by cooking on a stone heap and the cultures of Southeast Alaska baked or boiled halibut head as a delicacy [22, 35]. The cultures of the Northwest Coast and South Alaska and the Haida ate the ripened heads as a delicacy. Cultures of the Northwest Coast and South Alaska ripened the heads in boxes [48-50].
The Haida, Makah and Tlingit were more reliant on halibut than other cultures because they did not have many rivers with abundant salmon supplies in their region . Halibut was also a very important food source for the Kwakiutl living at the mainland inlets (not near the open sea). The Makah, Nootka and Quileute had more access to halibut than the Kwakiutl, but bad weather could prevent them from halibut fishing, leading to starvation. According to one text, the Quileute killed an alleged sorcerer for causing bad weather during halibut season. After the Nootka made alliances with cultures that had access to salmon streams, starvation was averted . Good access to halibut allowed the Coastal Salish to fish them most of the year .
Uses other than food
The Makah and Nootka Aht used halibut as trade items; Nootka Aht traded the fish for potatoes, camas, mats and other items [54, 56]. The Gitksan obtained halibut through trade .
Beliefs and taboos
Various cultures observed rituals when fishing or processing halibut. Before going halibut fishing, the Nootka fisherman needed to wash himself of the smells of “uncleanness” as noted earlier for flounder and cod fishing. When halibut was caught, it was always put in the canoe with the head pointing to the fisherman and the tail away from the fisherman . Coast Salish fishermen all used songs or prayers while fishing halibut, some of these were informal and spontaneous, others were obtained in dream or during supernatural experiences. The best halibut fishermen used songs or prayers that they had gained from dreams or supernatural experiences, and these songs and prayers were kept secret . Makah fishermen prayed to their halibut hooks when catching halibut: “Hold on, hold on, Younger Brother.” When clubbing halibut they prayed: “Indeed, this (club) does not sound bad on your head, Old Woman, Flabby-Skin-in-the-Mouth, you Born to be Given (names for the halibut) … Go, go and tell your father, your mother, your uncle, your aunt, your elder brothers, and your youngest brothers that you had good luck because you came to this, my fishing canoe” . The Kwakiutl did not permit the guts to remain in the carcass overnight because they believed that if they did so they would never catch halibut again . The Tlingit followed certain rules with halibut: When the halibut was hauled onto the canoe, it had to be done with the fish belly up so that the fisherman would continue to have success halibut fishing. Similarly, when halibut was cut for preservation, it had to be cut with the belly up . Halibut fishing is featured in the Nootka mythological story about Raven and his treachery in killing and consuming his friend Bear to explain why there are ravens on yokwat Island, but no bears .
Pacific halibut were reported to have been consumed by the Coast Tsimshian, Tlingit, Northwest Coast cultures and Nuxalk [57, 67-71].
Pacific halibut were usually caught with a halibut hook and line. The Tlingit halibut hook was a large hook with an alder wood shaft carved “to represent some mythological personage, animal, or object, from which the hook received its personal name”. These names belonged to siblings [67, 68]. The Tlingit believed that the halibut would be “influenced” by the carving so they usually chose a “powerful creature, perhaps itself a good fisher, whose spirit would entice the bait” . The hook barb was a bone point in ancient times, but was replaced by an iron point in later times. The hooks were used in pairs and were attached to spruce root line or sinew line and were weighted with bones. The hooks were also attached to two floats: one was made of light wood such red cedar (since at least the 60’s, cork) and was carved in the form of a duck or gull; the other was an inflated seal stomach, so that the hook would just skim the bottom. Octopus was used as bait [67, 68].
Greenland halibut were reported to have been eaten by Inuit of Greenland and Labrador and Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Newfoundland [26, 72-74]. Ungava Bay Inuit may have also eaten Greenland halibut . Greenland Inuit, for whom it was a prized fish, caught them in winter and its flesh is described as “tasty”. They also extracted oil from the Greenland halibut, the oil being described as being“ very fine and clear, like oil” .
Atlantic halibut were reported to have been consumed by Inuit of Greenland and Labrador and Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Richibucto and Newfoundland [72-74, 76]. West Greenlanders caught Atlantic halibut from kayaks in deep water at diverse banks or through ice in the winter .
Indigenous Peoples of the Northwest Coast, Southeast Alaska, Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, Coast Salish, the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw), Coast Tsimshian, Nuxalk, Tlingit, Penobscot, Aleut, Bering Strait Yupik, Quileute and Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Richibucto were reported to have eaten flounder [3, 25, 27, 33, 35, 40, 52, 57, 65, 71, 76-84].
Flounder were usually harvested in the fall and winter, though the Central Coast Salish caught them from late spring through summer and the Nuxalk caught them all year round [65, 71, 78, 83]. The fish were typically caught them in shallow water: along the shore or in bays and coves [15, 65, 77, 82, 83, 85]. They used spears, traps or hooks but also simply stepped on them and flung them into a canoe [15, 35, 65, 77, 78, 80-82, 85]. The Kwakiutl, Penobscot, Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples, Bering Strait Yupik, Southern Coast Salish, Coast Straits Salish and Northern Coast Salish and Tlingit used spears to catch them [15, 40, 77, 78, 80, 82-84]. The Penobscot canoed to bay or river coves where flounder were present and speared them with a sharpened pole with a notch at the end . Men and youth of Northwest Coast cultures waded in mud paths, and when they stepped on one, they would keep a foothold until they could spear it with a sharp stick . Bering Strait Yupik caught them through the sea ice using spears while the Southern Coast Salish caught them in saltwater from canoes using leisters or two pronged spears [78, 84]. The Tlingit and Coast Straits Salish utilized three-pronged spears, the latter also used two-pronged spears. The Tlingit caught them in winter through holes they had chiseled in the ice. The fisherman placed bait in these holes and squatted beside them encased wholly in a wool blanket, which eliminated direct sunlight and enabled the fisherman to gaze into the faintly lit depths. Waiting motionless with a spear in hand, he deftly speared any approaching flounder with the spear which was a three pronged spear with a short central iron prong and two longer side wood prongs with inward pointing nails, which spread when the flounder was speared [40, 83].
The Coast Straits Salish caught them in shallow bays from canoes with the aid of two-pronged spears or three-pronged spears, at times at night with fires. They also used flounder seines made of nettle-fiber twine to catch them: Groups of men and boys placed a seine in a bay at low tide, and they guided the flounder into the net by splashing water. When fishing from canoes in muddy water at the entrance of rivers during low tide, they used a pitchfork-like spear which had 4 to 6 ironwood prongs set together in a crosspiece on a cedar or fir shaft. The crosspiece was attached to the shaft using cherry bark . The Northern Coast Salish caught them in shallow water using a spear but when they were abundant in the Toba Inlet headwaters, they waded in and trod on them. Keeping one foot on the fish, they grasped the it by the head and flung it in the canoe drifting beside them [80, 85].
The remains of large stone tide traps found at the Strait of Georgia archaeological site suggest that the cultures of the coast of Southern British Columbia and Northern Washington (Strait of Georgia) may have used traps . The Central Coast Salish and Indigenous Peoples of Southeast Alaska caught them in salt water using hooks, the former using a u-shaped hook and octopus bait, and the latter using a halibut hook [35, 65]. The Kwakiutl jigged them using a flounder fishing line with fifty evenly spaced crossbones each attached to the line by hairlines. The bait, consisting of cleaned clams and cockles, which had been collected and cleaned by the fisherman’s wife, were put on the crossbones. The line was attached to two weights of elongated stones at each end and to a round cedar wood float at one end. The fisherman canoed to a “not very deep” area and set the line before returning home. In the evening, he returned by canoe to the spot marked by the float, picked it up, hauled the fishing line, removed the flounder, reset the line with bait and placed it back in the water. When the “weather was calm and the tide was coming in”, the Tlingit fisherman canoed to a shallow region stopping when he could see flounder, at which point, he would spear the flounder, haul it in the canoe and continue fishing .
Of note, the skin of the flounder is very rich in iodine and when it is cooked with the skin intact, has an unpleasant taste. It is delicious once skinned, but doing so is cumbersome so the Coast Salish used flounder when no other fish was obtainable . The poorer Kwakiutl families used it as a food source . It was usually eaten fresh by steaming, boiling or broiling; it was not usually preserved for later use [15, 27, 35, 40, 83, 85]. The Coast Salish steamed the fish; Indigenous Peoples of Southeast Alaska boiled it, while the Kwakiutl employed both preparation methods [15, 35, 85]. The Coast Salish steamed it in a one-foot deep shallow pit covered with hot rocks taken from a fire and reinforced with the outer bark of red cedar. Hemlock boughs were placed on these hot rocks and the whole dressed flounder was put on top. Over this, another layer of hemlock boughs was placed and this was covered with a cedar bark or bulrush mat. Steam was generated by passing water into dried stalks of elderberry or salmon berry which had been inserted into the pit and the flounder was steamed for about one hour . The Coast Salish also barbecued it whole after it had been cleaned on large barbecue racks made from wood poles and sticks. It was cleaned thus: The head and tail were removed, followed by the backbone, which was removed by slitting the flesh along it. The head and tail were reserved to make soup including fish chowder, while the entrails were thrown into the sea. To make flounder chowder, the head and tail were added along with any vegetables on hand and dried seaweed was used to thicken and salt the soup . The Indigenous Peoples of Southeast Alaska, who also ate flounder occasionally, boiled it in salted water, and seal or ooligan oil, adding herbs to flavor it. In earlier times, a type of pungent wild onion was used to flavor it .
In the Kwakiutl culture, the fisherman’s wife prepared all the flounder dishes save the one entitled “flounders steamed standing on edge on stones”, which was prepared by her husband. When she making boiled flounder, she removed the fish intestines and cut down to the bone on each side crosswise. In the first method of boiling flounder, she placed the fish in a kettle of boiling water immersing the first fish on a floating cedar stick grid, and laying three cedar sticks lengthwise on the fish. She then placed another flounder on top so it was crosswise on the first one and repeated the process several times so that the hot water could penetrate them. She let them boil for about an hour and a half, and after straining them using a bone strainer she placed them on individual dishes. Everyone consumed the whole flounder with their hands, sucking the bones, head and gills and eating the flesh. After eating, they rinsed their mouths with water and then drank some water. Flounder was also boiled on its own; with no cedar sticks. It was cleaned and cut in the same manner described above, but it was boiled in a kettle without placing them on cedar stick grids, and it was stirred until it flaked. It was ready when the meat flaked completely off the bones, at which point, the kettle was removed from the fire and oil added. The woman would then give spoons to everyone and ladle the flesh and stock into individual dishes using a large spoon, until they were half-full. Flounder was also steamed whole with the intestines intact on dry driftwood and hot stones and this dish was called “flounders steamed standing on edge on stones”. This dish was prepared by the fisherman and when ready, he summoned his numaym; kin group, and they sat around the dish and once everyone was present, they each picked one flounder and ate it with their hands and continued to help themselves to one flounder at a time once they had finished. When finished, they went home, washed their hands, rinsed their mouths to eliminate the saltiness, and then drank a bit of water. They avoided drinking a lot of water after consuming this particular dish because they believed that if they drank too much, they would always be thirsty . The Coast Straits Salish often broiled and ate flounder fresh, but at times, they smoked it .
Winter flounder were reported to have been eaten by Labrador Inuit, Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Newfoundland and Richibucto, and Wampanoag [73, 74, 76, 86].
The Micmac of Newfoundland caught winter flounder in September . The Wampanoag caught them at low tide using spears. One of them was a pole attached to a horse shoe crab tail; the other was a pole with a short, sharp side branch at the base which functioned as a barb .
Starry flounder were reported to have been eaten by the Bella Coola (Nuxalk) and Coast Tsimshian. The Coast Tsimshian may have caught them in the winter in the Prince Rupert Harbour region [57, 69]. The Nuxalk were also reported to have eaten starry flounder .
Arrowtooth flounder may have been eaten by the Coast Tsimshian as indicated by the presence of faunal remains at the Boardwalk Site, a Coast Tsimshian archaeological site on Dodge Cove in Northern British Columbia .
Windowpanes were reported to have been eaten by the Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Richibucto .
The Bella Coola (Nuxalk) , the people of the Strait of Georgia  and the Coast Salish [11, 80] are reported to have consumed sole. The Coast Salish were reported to have caught sole using a spear in shallow water .
Rock sole, dover sole, and English sole are reported to have been known to the Coast Salish of British Columbia . The Coast Tsimshian of Northern British Columbia were also reported to have used rock sole .
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