Halibut can tear your fingers

San Diego Bay oily halibut can relieve the gloom of off-season saltwater fishing.

Yellowfin Tuna and Dorado are long gone

Generally, mid-December is the time of year when the fishing winds blow on the beach and in the sea down to the rock fish and sand bass in the San Diego area waters. Although fine eating, targeting and fishing for rockfish and sand bass isn’t nearly as exciting as the ‘witch fishing’ in summer and fall that anglers can test and tackle. With the exception of a few extreme birds that stay near kelp beds during the winter, yellowtails return south to warmer weather. Although cold-tolerant bluefin tuna have been hanging around the banks of the Tanner and Cortez during the holiday season for the past few years, other sea fish such as yellowfin tuna and dorado have long since disappeared. The white seabass, bonito, and barracuda have yet to appear in the spring off Point Loma and La Jolla, and the numbers of fishermen dwindle on landing to less than a thousand from summer highs of more than six thousand men, women and children stepping on a fishing vessel a week.

Right down to the meat taco

For many who can’t afford the vacation or the money required to hop on a long-haul boat, it’s all down to “meat taco” from the sea, or trout from one of the lakes stocked in San Diego County. On the beach, surf fishing also disappears as sand crabs burrow deep or wash away with the winter waves. Sand crabs live about two years and die as the water cools in the fall, so, although there are still a few of them, and are usually found deep in rocks or plumes, there is not enough to keep the corbines and croakers feeding and these species move south of the coast, Or in bays to spawn. Surfing perch can be hunted year-round, and while it can be a fun source of attention, surfing doesn’t usually raise a fisherman’s heart rate. However, one of the saltwater species found in San Diego during the winter months will raise the pulse of the average angler when fishing: California halibut.

The right or left eye begins to move to the other side of the head

California halibut moving into deeper waters during the colder months doesn’t mean it’s leaving the area. Halibut’s spawning migrations in Southern California usually take place from February through June as they move into shallow waters to release eggs. The eggs float freely for about sixteen days, after which the eggs hatch into larvae with a large yolk sac. Halibut larvae spend their first month swimming upright in shallow waters, bays, and estuaries. When halibut larvae are about a month old, their right or left eye begins to move to the other side of their head. Halibuts are about 1.5 to 2 inches long at six weeks to two months old, and with both eyes on one side of their head, they are ready to settle in the sand as a flatfish.

Found near the mouth of Mission Bay

This halibut’s move to deeper waters in the cooler months doesn’t mean that they all travel offshore into the open ocean, many staying in bays, but they do move into deep channels along cliffs and steep ledges where they can ambush passing fish. Adult halibut feed on fin fish. Sardines, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and bottom lizards make up most of their diet. In shallow Mission Bay, winter halibut can be found along the channels near the mouth of the bay and under bridges, while in San Diego Bay, where the deep boating channel extends to J Street Marina, halibut can be found along the bay.

The best taste of slow drift

While targeting halibut breeding in surf or shallow waters in the bay, they will easily hit lure from heavy spoons like Krokodiles to lighter Lucky Craft and Rapala Stick baits. When the bait is in deep water, it will work best with halibut, as it is difficult to provide a bait like side-swim bait. Their bite tends to slow down in cold water as well, so waiting for the blow while the bait is being rolled can be a long order. Slow drift of the bait along the bottom is the most productive technique used for halibut in the winter months. Heavy enough to stay low due to wind and/or current, the 2 to 3 long lead with bait-sized hook is the basic drift setup for the halibut.

Move the tip of the rod towards the fish

Where and when the bait is sent to the bottom makes most of the difference in getting the halibut to bite, but once in a while, there are basic “rules” that make most fish get caught in the boat. Although it can destroy magic with violent strikes, a halibut bite on bait can be so subtle that it is easy to miss. Oftentimes, there is pressure as if a weight has found an obstacle, and if the fisherman pulls to release the obstacle, the halibut will usually leave the bait and not chase after it as many other species do when fishing with bait. When you feel pressure, the best way is to move the tip of the rod toward the fish while maintaining pressure as the fish slowly takes the bait. Halibuts usually hit the bait’s tail first and chew it slowly in their mouths. For this reason, the sting hook is often attached to the hook of the main line and is embedded in the tail of the bait fish.

They will spit the hook or cut the tooth

With or without a sting hook, patience is usually required to get the best result when stinging a halibut. Often, the fisherman feels a small jerk while the halibut chews the bait. When you feel as though the fish has the whole bait in its mouth, a slow wind and a slight rise of the tip of the rod is all it takes to know if it’s working. The hooks will adjust with pressure; There is no need to whip the rod back or wind fast, as a slow and steady recovery of the halibut will quietly get more halibut back to the boat. Pulling hard and spinning fast will only make for a harder and more intense fight, and with that, more fish will spit the hook or chip away at the teeth and get lost in the fight. Once you catch the halibut, the fight never ends. Use caution when handling halibut, it is gnawing reactive and can seriously damage human fingers with their teeth.

Help Santa Anas

Other than bait and location, tides and current must be considered when targeting halibut. Their body shape is like a kite, which means they will struggle more in fast-moving water. Halibut prefer to feed during recessionary waves within two hours before and after a dip or rise. Therefore, days when there is a smaller swing between the tides are best. Low winds can make a difference, especially if fishing from a light vessel such as an aluminum boat or kayak. Once you find a sand channel with steep edges, a slow drift, no more than one knot, along a line parallel to the channel is best. In San Diego, winter in Santa Anas can lead to calm, warm days on the bay where sea winds collide with the prevailing wild breezes. The slow swing of the tide with little or no wind is the perfect weather condition for halibut fishing along the bay channels in any of our bays. So, when catching native saltwater fish flattens out during the winter months, look out for flatfish!

Freshwater fish plants: 12/15 – Lake Jennings, trout (2000), 12/16 – Powai Lake, trout (1500), 12/17 – Santee Lakes, trout (1500)

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