The spring and early summer months are a much anticipated time for spear fishermen in Southern California. Once the White Seabass begin filling into the kelp beds to spawn, most of the diving community becomes quiet and detailed reports of fish are shared only within close friends. While most spearos are caught up with this seabass fever, many overlook another tasty species that also begin to show up in large quantities along our coastline, California Halibut!
Halibut hunters are a unique breed, as not all spear fishermen can handle the hours of staring at the bottom, scrutinizing every patch of sand and scattered reef in the hopes of spotting one of these camouflaged flatfish. But for that certain diver with a trained eye for finding flatties, nothing is more challenging or exciting!
On a recent outing, I was diving with my friend Ryan Moore and his brother Justin near their home in Palos Verdes. We knew there were some butts around so we chose to dive one of our favorite coves. We had every variable in our favor as it was two days before the full moon, the water temp had risen all week, the swell was nearly non existent and the visibility was clear. To top it off, there were plenty of grunion present in the shallows, one of the halibut’s favorite bait fish. At the end of the day, we managed an excellent days catch. We were going to spend our next nights tasting this delicious species.
Halibut (Paralichthys californicus) is another delicious species to target, but can be very tedious to hunt because they blend in with the sand. During the summer months the halibut come into the shallows to feed on the sponging squid or grunion baitfish. The best way to hunt them is to look for where the rocks break way to sand. Halibut will lay in camouflage in the sand ready to ambush the fish that live on the reef. It is critical to use a powerful gun with a double flopper tip so they do not tear off. When hunting for these fish, look for any disturbances in the sand like a gill plate or the edge of a fin. Sometimes they are 90% covered in sand, which makes them very challenging to spot. They can be found up to 60 pounds, but on average they are 10 to 30 pounds. They come into the shallows during high tide, so add some weight to your weight belt if you are hunting less than 15 feet deep. If you go deep, be prepared to spend a full day combing the sand because it can take several dives to spot one. According to the 2011/12 CDFG regulations, the recreational fishery for halibut in Cen-Cal is three per person per day with a minimum size of 22 inches.