Carrie Wilson, a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, answers questions sent in by outdoorsmen on a wide range of hunting and fishing topics. Here Carrie answers two questions — one about how many hooks you can use on halibut and whether or not it is legal to gaff a salmon.
Q: I fish out of Morro Bay for halibut but there’s no live bait available this year. Because of that, I’d like to try ball-bouncing for halibut and am thinking about trolling a Rapalla fishing lure as bait. I have two Rapalla lures with three galvanized treble hooks attached to them. I know the limit is only two hooks for most ocean fishes. Can I use these lures as they are designed or do I have to cut a set of hooks off them to be legal? — Chris J.
A: There are no hook restrictions for halibut, so the lure you have described would be legal to use.
However, according to our halibut program expert, DFG Associate Marine Biologist Travis Tanaka, you should remove one of the treble hooks.
There are two reasons for this. First, a hooked fish would be safer to handle because you wouldn’t have the additional hooks (not hooked in the fish) possibly hooking your clothing or skin. Second, short fish would be easier to release because again you wouldn’t have to worry about the additional hooks catching where you don’t want them to.
Tanaka says many anglers will also use a rig similar to that used for salmon, basically a hoochie/flasher trolled on the bottom. He’s also caught halibut drifting frozen anchovies.
We recommend a soft, knotless landing net. Sublegal-sized halibut landed with this type of net don’t split their fins (damaging them) and they will have a greater chance of survival when you release them.
Q: Is it legal to gaff a keeper salmon in the ocean instead of using a net? — Anonymous
A: In ocean waters it would be legal to gaff a legal-sized salmon pursuant to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 28.65(d), but you must still have a landing net that is at least 18 inches in diameter on board to land any undersized fish.
In inland waters, CCR Title 14, Section 2.06 makes it illegal to use or possess a gaff throughout California with one exception, which is a section of the Sacramento River below the Deschutes Road Bridge where gaffs three feet or less in length may be used to land legal-sized fish. This exception only applies to anglers fishing from a boat.