The most popular Southern California ground fish or bottom dwellers is the California Halibut. They grow just like other species of halibut, but are a home grown species in Southern California only. Though they may be on the smaller side (weighing up to 40 lbs) they're just as tasty as their bigger cousins. It is not uncommon for both eyes to rest on one side of a matured halibut's head; once one eye migrates to the other side and turns white, it spends its life swimming horizontally along the bottom with the white, blind side down. They do put up a great fight for their size! Feels like a brick.
They can be caught in 3 feet or 300 feet of water and prefer sandy bottom that are near kelp beds or other structure that hold the bait fish they feed on. Although, in the shallows you can find them lurking just about anywhere, even if no structure is around. In the waters around San Diego there are some big halibut! Both inside San Diego Bay, along the harbor mouth rocks, and on the sand bottom anchorage to the south of the mouth of San Diego Bay. If you want to go further out, and away from the crowds, their are several sand bottom areas next to rock beds that allow you to fish for rockfish, lingcod, and halibut, all at the same time. Winter fishing does not get better than that. Lastly, as I am sure you know, it tastes good! A halibut steak will be your reward if you land one. The pictures here answer the question of can you fish in the winter.
The answer is undoubtedly yes.
Halibut are ambush fish, hiding out on the sandy bottoms of SoCal waiting for their next meal to swim by. Keeper Halibut are 22' and over and one fish can make dinner for six. Often recognized as one of the flakiest, and tastiest fish of the sea, you will also enjoy the fight these flatfish can provide. They reach a max weight of around 50lbs!
Normally, they are caught strait off the bottom on the drift. Ask one of our deckhands to tie you up a Halibut rig. On occasion though, Halibut have been known to come off the bottom and chase their food down. Pictured to the left, is a Halibut that bite iron about halfway up.
You will definitely have a good time chasing this Pacific bottom fish.
Halibut are known for waiting on the bottom, partially covered by the sand, and surprising their prey when they come by. They usually feast on live bait such as squid and sardines. However, I (Rob Mailly, owner of Sportfish San Diego) caught my personal best on a old metallic green heavy jig stripped with dead squid. Scientists used to think they were more like scavengers that preyed on anything that came by. Now it is known that they're aggressive predators who eat any smaller bait fish available to them.
aka THE FLAT FISH
Halibut range in size, living close to shore lines, all the way up to 1000+ feet deep. They can be caught at deep ocean water levels and shallower depths. Deep-ocean caught fish are the best eating, but you can still catch a trophy halibut in 3 feet of water on a sandy beach! Halibut will also strike lures, either plastic swim baits or heavy iron jigs stripped with squid or fin bait filet. Rubber swim baits seem to work best and are even more effective when baited with a thin strip of cut squid. Halibut have even been known to come up off the bottom and strike Sand Bass or other local fish being targeted at the time.
When a Halibut is caught, make sure to remove the head, clean it out and ice down quickly while leaving enough skin to meet local regulations. Do not cut off any excess skin or alter the filet in anyway. If the fish is close to legal size, you don't want the tab of skin missing or a portion of a short-cut filet. The meat is delicate and spoils easily. Once you get it home peel four fillets off then be sure to peel off the engawa (outer strip of meat at base of fins) - it's delicious! Halibut are easily one of the best eating fish in California waters and have broad appeal to people of all tastes. I've never heard anyone say that fresh Halibut tastes fishy. They're excellent as sashimi, baked, or broiled and even fried or sauteed. The meat is light, delicate and flavorful.