Dead bait fishing for halibut off piers?

Reel Newbie

Well-known member
#1
I’m trying to get on some halibut in the sf bay, but have almost no clue what to use in terms of bait rigging. So far I’m using frozen anchovies on a fish finder rig with a 1/0 hook and a 2-3’ 20lb leader, which has gotten me an 18 incher, but it seems I am missing a lot of bites. Live bait is out of the question, as I live a long way from the bait docks. I’m going to try using a stinger rig on a fish finder and see, but what does a halibut bite even look like? It looks like they are always just nibbling away at the bait and never committing. The one I caught hooked itself, and after that I haven’t managed to get them to take it. Any thoughts? Also, is 15lb mono enough for halibut? It’s the line that I have on my abu 6501c3, and it’s the only reel I have that has a lighter rod and a bait clicker.
 
#2
I only can comment on experience fishing for them in SoCal. In shallow water I’ve gotten them down to #10 test mono using 3” plastic grub tails and swim baits. I got a 29” on accident on #8. For dead bait, it depends on what’s on THEIR menu in the area. In shallow water I use a C rig for both live an dead bait with either a size 4 live bait hook or a size 6 baitholder, and a 3-4’ leader. Weight depending on the current. I sometimes go light and let the current take my bait. I use a rod with a soft tip when fishing bait. Here’s how it usually goes for me.. Bumpity bump bump bump. The line would seem to go dead. Then I’d give it some line. As u feel, you’ll notice your tip slowly bob up and down. On the down stroke reel down and set your hook. If your bait comes up torn up, it’s usually crabs. A halibut bite on a dead bait usually ends up with you getting just a head back or half the bait. #20 is good for deeper water but in shallow water I use #10-15 mono. My favorite live/dead bait halibut reels are my 5000 sized Swedish Abu rounds with #15. Your 6501 will work. You may find that you have more than enough #15. It’s like putting #15 on a 146 squidder. For throwing plastics, any good low pro with #10 will work. When you get your fish close, DONT hold it too far out of the water, only up to it’s jaw. I’ve seen the sudden shock of an out of water head jerk snap #30 braid on a large fish. People forget that halibut are mostly muscle. I know it’s a bad joke but I tell people, “Don’t put your finger in their mouth.” Guess what they do... lol Last but not least, don’t forget your hoop net.
 

Red Fish

Well-known member
#3
Okay, the gear and line class are fine. I have caught dozens of halibut on 12# monofilament main line on Abu 6500’s.
I have also caught 36” halibut at Paradise Pier on frozen bag anchovies on a C-rig consisting of nothing more than a 3/4 ounce egg weight. The rod was sitting in a holder straight down, the anchovy was threaded (head down) on a circle hook and suspended two feet off the bottom. The fish self-hooked and loaded the rod off a couple pounds of drag. Make sure you have some good quality bag bait like the Sport with nice big jack anchovies. The Sea Wave is too beat up sometimes. I’ve out-fished people using shiners this way. Some times the fish are keyed in to smell (over vibrations).
If you get to your spot it is worth taking a little time to catch some baitfish on small hooks (size 10 or 12 bait/holders) baited with small pieces of market shrimp, squid, anchovies, or pileworms. Shiner perch, smelt, and even bullheads will work for halibut. Your odds increase many times as your live bait doesn’t get consumed by crabs and big smelt while waiting for halibut.
Also, you might try a slip bobber rig above your threaded anchovies (or 2 hook mooching style/trap-hook style way of baiting anchovies [one hook in the head/one hook in the tail area].
If you can set the hook when the fish is running, always better because you know there is tension on the line but not necessary to set hook. After the initial pull, and possibly a short run and stop or not, the halibut is usually sitting on the hook. You can always give a medium swing upwards which many times results in head shakes in return and fish on! The more opportunities, the better you will get. I have caught many in the past ten years where I just went for my net and let the halibut load up the rod and self/hook stripping drag out on light-wire circle hooks.

Good luck!
 
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#4
I caught quite a few halibut this year on dead bait, often mackerel. The main reason for live bait is to keep the bait moving and off the crabs. If crabs are not around, cut bait will work fine if the halis are biting. All in all, I think live bait works best, swimbaits work well if jigged around. They are aggressive fish. There are a lot of ways to catch halibut.
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#5
Halibut are ambush predators and like nothing better than lying in a depression on the bottom of the sea and waiting for a fish to swim by. Once the victim, aka food, is seen the halibut quickly rises up and attacks the fish (generally from behind). Live bait is generally seen as best with swimbaits (representing live bait) seen as the next best alternative. What I do when I am fishing (for whatever species) is I almost always have my bait in motion. Cast out. let it sink, and a slow retrieval, it's what I do cast after cast and if using dead bait for halibut it would be the same. Just casting out, letting the bait sit on the bottom, and letting the rod sit on the railing rarely yields the same success as moving bait. It can be dead, as in frozen anchovies, but your presentation can make it seem alive.
 

Reel Newbie

Well-known member
#6
How do you suspend bait above the bottom? I just went out with more fish finder rigs and it seems that all I’ve been catching is some sort of seaweed. Threading the anchovies on with a needle really helps them stay on though.
 

Red Fish

Well-known member
#7
Songslinger Slip Float Illustration
How do you suspend bait above the bottom? I just went out with more fish finder rigs and it seems that all I’ve been catching is some sort of seaweed. Threading the anchovies on with a needle really helps them stay on though.
Usually, the bait is just lowered straight down over the side (not casted) for halibut when you suspend the bait. When you hit the bottom, reel up a couple feet to bring the length of your leader off the bottom + 1/2 foot or so to bring your bait up. Your rod will be bending and bobbing a little from your sinker and the weight of the bait.
 
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Reel Newbie

Well-known member
#8
I’m fishing the oyster point pier mostly, and I don’t think that just lowering the bait down is a viable option. It’s just too windy, shallow and short for it to work right? Would adding a float in front of the bait on a fish finder rig work? I’m thinking that a wine cork might be able to float an anchovy.
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#11
You can also use a triple swivel and a short leader. Main line to top of swivel, bottom of swivel attached to a line running to a sinker 3 feet down, middle part of swivel attached to the bait leader that is shorter than the bottom line keeping it a little off the bottom.