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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 7:40 pm | Fair 49º


Captain’s Log: Fishing Just For the Halibut

Use one of three basic techniques to reel in one of the tastiest fish in the sea.

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Late summer is prime time to reel in halibut. The tasty fish are plentiful in shallow local waters. (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

Halibut are plentiful in shallow local waters, both along the coast and at the Channel Islands. This Captain’s Log is designed to help you catch one of our tastiest fish in the sea.

There are three basic techniques common to halibut fishing in California: drifting, bounce balling and surf fishing. Print this article and take it with you to a local tackle shop for some fun shopping.

Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
Drift fishing is the most common way to fish for “flatties.” Motor or paddle out over a flat sand or mud bottom and make repeated drifts over various depths until you get bit. Concentrate on that depth and location because halibut tend to congregate. 

Live bait works wonders on halibut, so buy live sardines and anchovies from the bait receiver at the harbors. An effective live-bait rig is a simple reverse dropper loop (hook tied to the end of the line and a weight hung from a loop a couple of feet up the line).

Productive anglers have more than one technique working simultaneously, so while drifting, cast spoons such as a Luhr Jensen, Krocodile or a Hopkins in chrome or white finishes.

Let the spoon flutter down to near the bottom and slowly pump it back to the boat, frequently allowing it sink back down in order to keep it where the fish can see it. When fishing baits, spoons or swimbaits, I prefer a 7-foot medium action rod, such as a Fenwick or Penn, with a smooth sturdy and dependable midsize reel, such as the Penn International 975 model.

Bounce balling is an effective slow-troll method. The rig begins with a three-way swivel. Your main line from the rod is tied to one of the three rings on the swivel. From a second ring, run a 24-inch light leader to a heavy weight (from 1 to 2 pounds, depending upon the velocity of the current and the speed of the boat). From the third ring, run a 3-foot heavy leader to a dodger or flasher blade. From the dodger or flasher, run a 30-inch medium leader to a lure or live bait.

Move the boat along, under power and in gear at a speed through water, just enough to give the dodger or flasher some action. That usually will be 1.5 to 3 knots, depending on current direction and speed relative to trolling direction. Bounce the weight on the bottom every 20 seconds or so, by lowering the tip of the rod. Nearby halibut can feel the bump and see the cloud of sand or mud kicked up by the bouncing weight. That is when they strike.

At times, surf fisherfolk stand as good a chance of catching a halibut as does a boater. This is the best time of year to keep a casting rod and fanny pack of — gulp! — grubs, plastics and leadheads tucked safely away in the car. When you have a couple of hours to spare, take a walk along the beach and cast repeatedly into the surf, retrieving at a slow-to-medium speed.

Common color choices for the lures are white, root bear or motor oil. Best spots are sandy beach areas adjacent to structure such as piers, rocks or breakwaters.

Just think: Every time you get into your vehicle and see your rod waiting, you’ll feel like you’ve got your priorities straight.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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