Saltwater Fish of the Week for 4/12/04 posted by: tubeN2
Average Weight: 9.6 lb. - 48.0 lb.
Peak Weight: 80.0 lb.
IGFA Record: 85.2 lb.
Common Names: California Halibut, Chicken Halibut, Bastard Halibut, Portsider, Monterey Alabato
The Flatfishes are a good tasting lot, accounting for the near demise of the Atlantic Halibut-- Hippoglossus hippoglossus. Commercial fishing on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine has reduced the species to an all-time low population. Since the Atlantic Halibut is no longer viable as a sportfish, we will cover it no further.
Other Halibut and Flounder have fared better, particularly on the West Coast. Along the western Atlantic, two species are still sought after by the sporting crowd.
The big problem, of course, is their ""good taste."" They don't call it fishing ""just for the Halibut"" for nothing, Cappy! The fish is Sole food! Anglers equipped with anything from a light salt water spinning outfit to heavy bottom-fishing gear will target these stubborn and powerful Flatfish. It's not a catch-and-release fishery.
Flatfish are distributed worldwide, known to locals as Flounder, Plaice, Dabs, Halibut, and Sole. They are classed into two families. The Right-Eye group contains the Pacific Halibut and Winter Flounder. And the Left-Eye bunch includes the California Halibut and Summer Flounder.
Anglers are lucky to have these four species, two on each side of the United States. The West Coasters get the big ones though. Their body-shape regulates them to flat bottom, mud, soft sand, and gravel. Seldom caught in great depths, the entire clan will come inshore. With the exception of the Pacific Halibut, they can be taken from beaches and inlets.
Large and mature Halibut and Flounder will move offshore into deep water during the winter. As the water warms again, they migrate back toward shorelines, often caught in depths under a fathom.
Flounder and Halibut feed upon marine worms, crabs, and baitfish. East Coast varieties are susceptible to sand and blood worms used as bait, and the Pacific members will take sardines and herring. When not feeding, Flatfish rest upon the bottom, changing their colors to blend in with their surroundings. Like many fish, they like to feed during the run of the coming tide.
The California Halibut is a coveted quarry, not only by baitfishermen but by trollers and casters, even those who toss the fly. Since it becomes large, a Portsider is classed beyond the ""pan."" Its a sportfish.
With a range from San Francisco Bay to Baja, California, Mexico, this dogged Flatfish is pure muscle. It has a larger mouth, for its size, than the Pacific Halibut; and it is distinguished from the latter species by the position of its eyes. That's why its called the Portsider.
Sandy coves and gradual pebbly beaches, having an abundance of crustaceans and small baitfish, will have resident California Halibut.
For Flounder, a wide variety of baits will work. Sandworms and Bloodworms can be chopped into 2-inch pieces and threaded on a hook. For Fluke, use a larger portion of sandworm; and if not too large, the whole worm. Softshell crabs, chunked, will work. And so will the lowly clam.
Live baits will take both Winter and Summer Flounder. Mummichogs are easy to keep alive, and they make good hardy baits. You can catch your own chogs in estuarine areas by using a galvanized Minnow Trap. Bait the trap with a dried slice of bread or hamburger bun. Other minnows, such as sandeels, will take Flounder.
On the West Coast, California Halibut are also minnow feeders. They are fond of anchovies which can be used live or cut. Other Portsider baits include shellfish, squid, shrimp, and queenfish. The giant Pacific Halibut will take squid, small cod, ling, and herring, both whole or cut.
With smaller Flatfish, the word ""tactics"" seems odd. Still, if we were to give any mirabilis helpful hint, it's this-- fish the coming tide, two hours before high tide and to its peak. If the fish are biting well, the surge can carry over to the first hour of the slacking tide.
For The Brutes, we say this-- lift a few heavy things, coffee tables, chairs, dumb-bells, before attempting to throw your back out on a Pacific Halibut. Before signing up for a trip to Alaska get Travel and Hernia Insurance. And Finally, A.J.'s LAST GREAT TIP-- when a HUGE Pacific Halibut hits your bait, try to set the hook immediately. Then attempt to stop the fish from gaining ""bottom-suction,"" as they do, by cranking and jerking like a fiend. Notice the words ""try"" and ""attemp"". Ahh, the sport of it!
California Halibut are a medium tackle fish, needing a minimum of 20-lb test equipment, and can be caught on flyfishing tackle. Fly tackle will take Fluke and their California cousins. On the East Coast, a 7 or 8-weight rod is ideal. For California Halibut, use a 10 or even 12-weight fly rod. The line should be a quick-sinker, and the reel does not have to be the expensive Gold variety. Use small Baitfish Streamers and Shrimp Flies, hook sizes 1 to 3/0.
For Fluke, Winter Flounder, and California Halibut, use spinning and casting outfits similar to those described for Striped Bass. The reels do not have to be expensive.
Regular trolling tackle, a 7-foot rod and bottom reel such as the Penn Squidder will include the California Halibut. Although usually fished from an anchored boat, the tackle can also be used for slow-trolling live or cut baits, keeping them close to bottom.
The big Pacific Halibut of Alaska require stout stuff-- boat rods rated Extra Heavy Salt Water, not too long, are combined with 4/0 sized reels loaded with 80-lb monofilament or dacron. The size of the sinker employed depends on the depth. This can mean a fairly small weight in water less than 80 feet.
Blackback Flounder can be taken with Spreader Rigs if you fish from a pier or boat. Sometimes, on a good tide, its possible to catch two Winter Flounder on the Rigs at once. Talk about pure sport!
Spreaders need no additional sinker and are rigged with a pair of Chesterton or Flounder hooks. These hook styles have a long shank and a Kirbyed bend, easier to remove from a Flatfishes mouth than short-shanked varieties. They are available at most coastal tackle shops.
Summer Flounder and their California cousins are targeted with single hooks, usually O'Shaughnessy's up to 5/0, and a Drop Sinker is employed. The Dipsey style, rounded on the bottom, works well and can be attached to the end of your line about 1 1/2 feet below the hook.