California Halibut

Shovelnose GuitarfishSpecies: Paralichthys (parallel fish) californicus (Californian) -- a California fish that lies parallel.

Alternate Names: Flounder or flattie; extra large halibut, only rarely seen on piers, are called barn doors.

Identification: In the left-eye flounder family, although nearly half of these fish are right-eyed. Halibut are noted for their sharp teeth, a large squarish shaped mouth, and a high arch in the lateral line above the pectoral fin. Their coloring is normally white or yellowish on the blind side and a muddy brown on the colored side. Often there is splotching or even white spots on the colored side, especially in smaller fish.

Size: To 60 inches and 72 pounds. Most caught off piers are under 24 inches in length.

Range: Gulf of California, and from Magdalena Bay, Baja, California to Quillayute River, British Columbia (although one source says only to Alsea, Oregon).

Habitat: Shallow-water, sandy-shore areas, oceanfront and in bays.

Piers: Most common at oceanfront piers. Best bets: Crystal Pier, Oceanside Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Goleta Pier and Cayucos Pier. A few are caught each year at Monterey Bay Piers such as Capitola and Seacliff. An increasing number in the '90s have been caught at Pacifica, and at San Francisco Bay piers such as Berkeley Pier and Candlestick Point Pier.

Bait and Tackle: By far, the best bait for California Halibut is a live bait, preferably a live anchovy. However, since fewer and fewer piers have live anchovies, the next best bait is a live bait caught by the angler. Small queenfish make excellent bait as well as small white croaker, topsmelt, jacksmelt, California butterfish and shinerperch. Whichever bait is used, the key is to keep it lively and keep it near the bottom. A sliding live bait leader works fine, especially with a small slip-on sinker added to get the bait near the bottom. Another approach is to tie a snap-swivel to the end of the line with a hollow center egg sinker directly above the swivel. Then attach a three to four foot leader with a size 2 - 4 hook to the snap. High/low leaders can also be used but are far less effective unless the angler keeps his line in motion. Halibut will also hit cut bait - anchovies, mackerel, sardine and even squid -- but if used, the angler should try to keep the bait in motion. Halibut can also be caught on artificials. Lures like scroungers should be cast out, allowed to settle to the bottom, and then given a slow to moderate retrieve. Halibut will often follow the lure almost to the surface before striking, so be prepared.

Food Value: Excellent! One of the best tasting fish in our waters. White, lean meat with a very low fat content. One of the best frying fish although good using almost any method of cooking.