Things are looking up – halibut strategies

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PROUD ANGLERS aboard the Pride out of 22nd Street Landing scored 11 seabass for 11 anglers and a 17 halibut too.
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BY MERIT McCREA

 SAN PEDRO/LONG BEACH — It was just a month ago, Valentine’s Day to be exact, when this writer went before the Fish and Game Commission to ask on behalf of the Sportfishing Association of California and SoCal anglers that they not change the halibut regulations to a two fish limit state-wide. That was what was being proposed.

The primary reasoning was having a 2-fish limit wouldn’t change the SoCal catch because anglers seldom if ever reached an average of 2 halibut per rod for the entire boat anyway, and having the bigger limit was inspirational, just like the 10 dark goose and 20 light goose limit or the CA lottery jackpot.

With Department of Fish and Wildlife standing down the Commission decided to leave the bag limit unchanged – for now.

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Though chances of hitting the jackpot are slim to none, it left the 5-fish dream intact.

But really I hope SoCal halibut catches boom like they have in S.F. Bay area where their 2-fish limit actually does do something.

Last year the one exception was 3 or 4 trips on the boat Pride out of 22nd Street Landing in San Pedro. Those few trips anglers had indeed surpassed 2 halibut each and would have released about 50 fish overall with a 2-fish limit.

In recent weeks Capt. Shon Roberts has been at it again, one trip boating 5-fish limits for the whole group of 16 anglers, and now in the past few days he’s had 3 trips where the 2-per-angler ceiling has been breached – twice with 31 keepers – with 9 anglers and again with 14 and once more with 41 of the flatfish for 14 folks.

In recent memory he’s the only skipper in the partyboat fleet to have breached the 2-per-rod threshold south of Monterey.

This past weekend his 11 anglers only had 17 keeper halibut, releasing 13 shorts – but they came with 11 white seabass for limits of those!

There are some strategies for halibut and they seem to stem from just a couple of basic principles.

One is cover more area while you fish. The other is halibut tend to lie on the bottom with their eyes looking up.

Then there are the regular and usual things like having a lively bait, or at least a fresh one, fishing the same kind of bait as the fish in the area have been feeding on.

Covering the area might include how the drift is set up. It often includes either slow trolling or at least tossing your offering out where other anglers baits aren’t and slowly dragging it back.

As for the things are looking up, as in up from the bottom, the trick is to elevate your bait above the bottom just a bit. Rig it so your bait won’t drag or hide right on the bottom, but between 6 inches and a few feet above it.

Make your leader short enough that your live bait can’t dart beyond view in murky waters. Up in the Bay Area the standard rig employs a 3-way swivel – one loop to the main line, one to the sinker and the third to the leader.

For fishing squid beds with a live squid the basic dropper loop rig works well.

There is one pervasive halibut myth that is basically wrong. Halibut are not picky biters!

LOCAL WATERS FLATFISH – This 30 pounder was caught by Merit McCrea just outside the Federal Breakwater off Long Beach. A live sardine proved a fatal attractant for this fish. PHOTO BY “IZORLINE” WENDY TOCHIHARA
PROUD ANGLERS aboard the Pride out of 22nd Street Landing scored 11 seabass for 11 anglers and a 17 halibut too.

In fact, they’re more like lingcod. They pounce and hang on.

If you get a bite that results in just a scratched up bait, chances are the bait was simply too big for whatever fly-swatter-sized halibut tried to eat it.

As for being like Capt. Shon, the key is two part. First you have to be good at finding fish. And you have to have a charter clientele consisting of exceptional anglers, folks that can consistently catch fish when they’re there to be caught.

One final bit on halibut – they’re tricksters. They can swim backwards out of a net like a trout. They hardly pull most of the time, then take off at warp speed breaking your line. Fish a light drag, and keep the line taught with the rod bent.

PORT SAN LUIS HALIS – The flatfish bite continues up off the Central coast, with few anglers admitting to having gone fishing. Avila launched 12 boats and they showed back up a few hours later with 17 of the flatfish. PHOTO COURTESY OF PORT SAN LUIS SPORT LAUNCH
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