The Pacific halibut is found on the continental shelf of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Fishing for the Pacific halibut is mostly concentrated in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, off the west coast of Canada. Small halibut catches are reported in coastal Washington, Oregon, and California. Pacific halibut is broken up into 10 regularity management areas.

Halibut are demersal, living on or near the bottom of the water and prefer water temperatures ranging from 3 to 8 degrees Celsius (37.4 to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Pacific halibut belong to the family Pleuronectidae. From November to March, mature halibut concentrate annually on spawning grounds along the edge of the continental shelf at depths from 183 to 457 m (600 to 1,499 ft).

Halibut are strong swimmers and are able to migrate long distances. Halibut of all ages and sizes are involved in a predominantly clockwise (northwest to southeast) migration from their settlement areas (western part of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea), reproductive fish also make regular seasonal migrations from more shallow feeding grounds in summer to deeper spawning grounds in winter.