The phone at my fishing tackle shop (Hook, Line & Sinker in Santa Barbara) began ringing incessantly. Callers were panicky. My store’s Facebook page was blowing up with alarmed onliners. Folks were running into the shop with their arms waving wildly and fear in their eyes. They had all heard the same thing — halibut fishing was being closed for the month of August.
Yup, that would cause a panic! August is a great month for halibut fishing.
Fortunately, I knew the scoop. I write for Western Outdoor News, covering the CenCal and NorCal saltwater beat, and so from my contacts up north I learned the real story.
Yes, halibut fishing is shut down for the month of August, but it is Pacific halibut that are being closed, not our California halibut. We can go right ahead and keep fishing for the tasty flatfish with two eyes on the same side of their head. They may be a strange fish, but they sure fight well and taste great.
The Pacific halibut are the ones they get way up north and are the ones you hear about attaining weights of hundreds of pounds in Alaskan waters. They do roam down the coast, and we have a great fishery for them in NorCal, especially out of Eureka.
We do occasionally get them in the Santa Barbara Channel, but to put it in perspective, in all the years (OK, decades) I’ve been running a charter boat out of Santa Barbara, I have caught only two Pacific halibut. They tend to frequent deeper waters, like 300 feet, whereas our California halibut hang out in shallower water, all the way in to the surf zone. The few who do make it this far down the coast are usually the younger ones (under 60 pounds) going on swimabout, which is the ocean-going equivalent of walkabout.
So if you like to eat our delectable local halibut (and most folks do), feel free to order it, buy it or even go catch it yourself for the ultimate fresh fish taste. If, however, you prefer to order Pacific halibut (sometimes called Alaskan halibut), you may notice a degradation in the freshness factor until the season is reopened and enough time has passed for fishing, buying, processing, transporting and putting them out in your local seafood market or restaurant.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.