Preference: Halibut or Rockfish?

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#1
This question came up on a related thread.

I realize that there are a couple of different considerations — (1) Catching the rockfish, skill needed and fighting ability, and I assume we are talking catching shallow-water rockfish here from the rocks; (2) Cooking — Edibility and flavor. Other?

One problem is that few rockfish are caught from the shore in SoCal, most are caught out on the boats and that's a different beast.
 
#2
I find the halibut to be a much more rewarding catch. Although the California halibut is not as tasty as the Pacific halibut, it is still absolutely delicious. I love the firm texture and the clean not too fishy taste. When it is cooked right it is one of my favorite fish. It is also much more rewarding to catch. You really have to target and hunt them to be successful. Rockfish seem kinda dumb and will bite anything. When it comes down to it though, I'm happy when I catch anything. Just my 2 cents
 
#3
I like dumb fish, that will bite anything.
Lingcod for me. I don't have much Halibut opportunity. love catching Lings off the rocks. Love eating them also. Beer battered fresh caught Lingcod and onion rings is amazing. Like eating Halibut also but never had the chance to catch one.
 
#4
I agree, for sure, that Halibut requires more skill to catch than a rockfish.
I think that both have excellent texture, and a clean taste not reminiscent of the oilier fish such as mackerel and sardines.
However, I think that the slightly higher fat content of the rockfish lend to a better flavor and is much more forgiving to cooking.
If you overcook a california halibut, even a little bit, you might as well eat sand.
I pick nits a little here though, a properly cooked halibut is outstanding.
I would not turn my nose up at either.
vote: rockfish
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#5
Actually I'm not too sure rockfish are more "dumb" than halibut. They simply feed differently. Rockfish seem to be more opportunistic feeders that feed on a variety of organisms that they find in their environment. Halibut are predatory, ambush fish that generally feed on smaller fish, thus the favorite bait being live bait fish or lures that simulate live fish.
 
#6
I love eating both, but fishing the Central Coast ends up with me catching more rockfish than halibut these days. Both can be prepared so many different ways I even end up having certain preferences on how to prepare the same species. That said, I grew up fishing the So Cal surf and jetties and targeted butts with plugs, spoons, and jigs. Ate many of them and always found them absolutely delicious, so I'll cast my vote to the halibut.
 
#7
I’d vote halibut too. And I agree CA butts can taste better than Pacbutts...depending on where caught & how they were handled. Most Pacbutts in CA are pulled up from 200+ feet of water, which affects the texture if handled wrong. AND it’s illegal to dispatch them with a firearm in CA, so most guys drag them into the boat where they flop around violently which can also affect the meat quality.
Not all rockfish are the same too. Different types have different flavors and characteristics. So it’s hard to compare rockfish vs halibut. But this is subjective and it’s just based on your personal preference. Essentially, there is no wrong answer. :)
 
#8
Suspended (swimming?) species of rockfish, mainly blues and blacks, steamed with green onions, doused with a mixture of hot oil and soy sauce with some ginger shavings on top.

Halibuts are more rewarding to catch since you work harder for them (at least I do), but I just waste it when I try to do anything besides deep frying it. :/

I stay the heck away from bottom feeding rockfish - C&R only. The heavy scent when you start gutting and cleaning gets to me. Gophers are the worst of them.
 
#9
I would go for rockfish. Specially, if cabezon is included, it has a subtle, but delicious crabby/sweet taste. I found the texture of halibut meat to be superb, but the lacking some taste. Maybe that's because I actually like the "fishy" taste of oily fish, in particular grilled fresh sardines or mackerel.
Also, the variety of rockfish, with so many species, colors and looks, makes it interesting to catch. You can never be sure what you will get, and that adds interest.

So, rockfish for me.
 
#10
Suspended (swimming?) species of rockfish, mainly blues and blacks, steamed with green onions, doused with a mixture of hot oil and soy sauce with some ginger shavings on top.

Halibuts are more rewarding to catch since you work harder for them (at least I do), but I just waste it when I try to do anything besides deep frying it. :/

I stay the heck away from bottom feeding rockfish - C&R only. The heavy scent when you start gutting and cleaning gets to me. Gophers are the worst of them.
EWWW.... Why would you gut them? Think you may have been misinformed. Take the filet, do not disturb the guts and poo. Barley keeper size ling cod filet is the most clean and delicate flavor fish I've experienced.
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#11
As for rockfish, one indicator of relative quality is the price paid to commercial fisherman for various species. At $4.85 per pound, grass rockfish received the highest prices paid to California commercial fishermen for rockfish in 1998. There was a distinct difference in price between the shallow water rockfish kept and sold as live fish versus the deepwater species but that doesn’t detract from the grass rockfish ranking of #1. Treefish were #2 at $4.66 per pound, olive rockfish and bronzebacked rockfish tied for #3 at $3.74, gopher rockfish were #5 at $2.78, China rockfish #6 at $2.72, black-and-yellow #7 at $2.41, quillback rockfish #8 at $1.79, brown rockfish #9 at $1.61, and kelp rockfish #10 at 1.57. Rosethorn rockfish were down at the bottom of the 31 species listed at only $.38. (And I could use some updated prices.)

Surprising to me was the difference between grass and kelp rockfish, two rockfish that have somewhat similar habitats.