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Fishing Halibut On The Sand


My friend Mike Abenoja is a programmer by trade.  We’ve collaborated on various projects.  He is the technical expertise behind So Cal Salty.  Mike is a fishing fiend like me.  He is a pro-staffer for United Composites and a principal behind SurfaceIron.com.  Mike and I occasionally get to fish together on boats, but most of the fishing we’ve done together has been on the beach.

I haven’t done much surf fishing during El Nino, but Mike has been making me want to get back on the sand.  He’s been on a quest this Summer/Fall to get a legal halibut off the sand.  Mike is still waiting to get the right fish, but he’s been putting up numbers on shorts.  Seems like it’s only a matter of time before the right one bites.

I’ve never caught any halibut off the sand (I have scored legals off the rocks), so I wanted to learn more about what he’s doing. Here’s what he told me…

Talk to me a little about the difference of fishing for halibut off the sand vs. off a boat

On a boat you target soft drop-offs or hard bottom.  From shore you target structure.  Fishing off the boat you are mainly fishing bait.  From the surf, you mainly fish artificials like jerkbaits or plastics.

What do you mean by structure?  What else are you looking for in a ‘halibut spot’?

Any beach will hold halibut. Look for surf breaks, troughs, and other structures like boiler rocks and breakwalls. The ideal halibut conditions would be low waves and swells would be spread apart by 15 seconds or more.

When is a good time to go?  Are certain tidal conditions better for targeting halibut on the beach?

The best time to target halibut on the surf is 2 hours before peak tide and then fish through to 1 hour after peak tide.

You mentioned you fish artificials mostly.  Talk to me about the setups/techniques.

hak_halibut_flukeI’ve seen a lot of people catch halibut on the beach using swimbaits on leadheads, but my personal beach halibut rigs are dropshotting plastics and throwing the Lucky Craft Flash Minnow.

My favorite dropshot bait is the Zoom Fluke (right), but any plastic that mimics baitfish will work.  My go to setup to fish the dropshot is the United Composites Pioneer SHX PU 76 UL-E, matched with an Okuma Inspira 20 spinning reel (see above). The reel is spooled with 6# Fluorocarbon line.  The bait is tied anywhere from 12-18-inches (depending on depth of water you’re fishing) above a 1/2 to 1 oz. weight.  You just want to use enough weight to hold bottom.

hak_halibut_lcFor throwing the Lucky Craft, I like to use a United Composites Pioneer SHX 83L matched with a Shimano Salty One (JDM) or any low gear ratio (5:1 or lower) baitcaster.  The reel is spooled with 12# mono.  The technique is really simple, just throw and wind back on a slow retrieve.  You just want to keep tension on the line.

I just kind of go by feel on throwing one rig vs. the other.  Both require calmer conditions.  Halibut like calmer water.  They are an ambush predator.  If it’s too much work for them to hold their hiding spot (because it’s too rough), you’re better off throwing the Carolina rig for surf perch.

There you have it.  If you’re looking for a change of pace from the yellowfin bite or it’s too far to drive to get in on that 805 yellowtail bite, here’s some fishing accessible to anyone along our coast.

Good luck if you get out there!