Less than a week away salties
All bets are off once the fleet gets back out there in force. Until then, I’ve been finding ways to scratch that itch. The last couple weeks, I’ve talked a lot about fishing for structure oriented bass. The other fishing related endeavor I’ve been focused on is catching a legal halibut off the beach.
California Halibut Fishing Tips
I’ve been on this quest since sometime last year.
The one you see above is the closest I’ve gotten so far. I found it Saturday morning off a Southern California beach(san diego halibut fishing spots). It may have actually hit the 22″ mark, but I didn’t have my tape measure. It was close so I let it go. During that same session, I caught another about half the size. I realized on the way home that I’ve learned a lot since I started reaching for this goal. I’m sure there is much left to learn, but there’s a good amount of info here to share and it’s enough to get you pointed in the right direction.
I can’t share with you exactly where I caught this fish, but I will share what you want to look for. Think about the surf environment, the constant pounding of the waves is a lot to deal with. When you go to the beach, it’s easy to expend energy quickly playing in the waves. It’s the same thing for the fish, except they’re in a life or death struggle. They live under the reality that if they burn more energy than they consume, they won’t survive very long. How do you conserve energy? You position yourself in holes or troughs where you don’t have to fight the full force of the surf as much. If you can position yourself in that hole and be ready to ambush in a place next to where food will likely be, even better.
In order to know where those holes and troughs are going to be, go at low tide and scout out the terrain. Once it fills in (incoming tide), you’ll know where to concentrate your efforts. Other things you can look for are: dark spots in the water, eddies/still water next to structure (like near jetties); bird activity – tern birds or cormorants working bait within your casting range; rip tides (either side of the rip); and of course, seeing actual fish! I also like the mouths of inlets.
Low tide or high tide? Incoming vs. outgoing? I’ve had my best success fishing the incoming tide, toward the peak of the tide. If there’s a morning high tide in the 4-5 foot range (like there is this weekend) go!
Tools & Techniques
I’ve had success using a variety of artificial baits: swimbaits, flukes, grubs, the Krocodile, Lucky Craft Flash Minnow etc. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to fish slower than you may be used to fishing. Part of that slower fishing is to take advantage of the surf movement itself. When that wave is receding, dead sticking as your lure flutters in that outgoing wave is a money move. Maybe because it’s the easiest presentation for me to fish slow, I’ve had a lot of luck lately fishing a really short dropper loop (2-3″), to a sturdy hook (Octopus style, wide gap has been working for me) about 15-16″ above a 1-2 oz weight. I like the loop being a little higher up because when your line is casted way out, it will sit just above the sea floor…or right in front of the fish’s face. I prefer tying this rig using 10-15# fluorocarbon (more for the abrasion resistance than the invisibility factor) attached to a braid mainline. I’ve had success using a dropshot setup too (especially for flukes), but what I don’t like about the traditional dropshot presentation is it is usually toast after one bite. The short dropper loop has been an effective replacement.
Pictured here is a whitish grub that I used successfully on my New Year Day halibut caught just off the beach from Newport. The smaller 2-inch version has been a good bait for me off the sand (see top). Cast it out, let it land and get your line tight. Drag it in a little, pause. Point your rod tip toward the bait. Slowly lift the tip and drop it down to give it slack. Your bait will move back and forth above where your sinker is anchored. Reel and drag a little more. Pause and repeat.
As I mentioned earlier, this weekend offers that morning high tide condition I like. You may want to give it a try.
Good luck if you get out there.