Saltwater – Halibut fever arrives early in Bay area

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BY DAVE HURLEY
WON Staff Writer

SAN RAFAEL – Halibut fever has been ramping up in San Francisco Bay around mid-February over the past few years, and this year was no exception as a flotilla of vessels arrived in the south bay over the weekend to troll or drift for the tasty flatfish. Traditionally, early season halibut are found south of the Bay Bridge as the water remains salty and clearer compared to the remainder of the vast bay.

Ross Corbett of Pacific Angler Sport Fishing out of Alameda broke the ice, so to speak, with 10 legal flatfish on Friday. He said, “These were holdover fish, and after finding a spot holding them, we picked at them for 10 fish. It was impressive considering all of the conditions were less than ideal for halibut with 8-foot tides and 50-degree water temperatures.

The big tides muddy up the water, and as sight feeders, halibut prefer clear water. It was encouraging, but Saturday brought out from 50 to 60 boats in the area, and after trolling for a few hours for nothing, we went outside the Gate to stack out our crab gear, putting in limits of Dungeness for our group.”

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Steve Gutierrez of Barbarosa Sport Fishing out of Oyster Point has also been getting in on the halibut action with five legal flatfish and a keeper striper on his Deadliest Kast rig in front of the harbor. He said, “Mostly we have been targeting sturgeon in the extreme south bay, and action has been good as we have been releasing a number of oversized diamondbacks.”

The party boats out of San Francisco will start trolling for halibut in earnest starting in March, but the Bass Tub went out on Saturday for overall slow action, but they did bring in some large fish to 16 pounds. Kanani Wong of San Jose was on a private boat for a 10-pound halibut on Sunday.

With live bait still several months out, halibut anglers will be trolling ‘popsicles’ – frozen herring or anchovies along with hoochie rigs in the shallows. Kayak anglers are also getting heavily into the action, mostly out of Oyster Point, with the challenge of landing a halibut every month of the year.

In San Pablo Bay, Captain Trent Slate of Bite Me Charters out of Loch Lomond Marina found slow sturgeon action over the weekend despite the massive outgoing tide, but he was able to salvage Sunday’s trip with limits of striped bass on the anchor near the Pumphouse on mud shrimp.

He said, “We didn’t see a jumper over the weekend, and we fished hard, but we made a bit of a move near the Pumphouse on Sunday, and once the outgoing tide started, we couldn’t keep the bass off of our lines. They were all keepers as we didn’t have to measure a single fish. We did release a short sturgeon as well.”

Sturgeon fishing is restricted in San Francisco Bay on a direct line between Pt. Chauncy (National Marine Fisheries Laboratory) and Pt. Richmond, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and a direct line between Pt. Lobos and Pt. Bonita.

This story appears in the February 24, 2023 print edition of Western Outdoor News. To get early access to every info and feature-packed issue of the West Coast’s biggest and best outdoor sporting newspaper, click here.

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