Sleepy Day at Huntington Beach Pier interrupted by Halibut Report 10/18/20


Well-Known Member
Went to Huntington Beach Pier on Sunday. Arrived around 5:30am and set my girl up for fishing to save our spots while I drove back home to pick up my forgotten tackle box. We decided to fish close to shore for the first time. We were the furthest in of anyone and setup just beyond the first alcove after the lifeguard tower. We fished the Northside of the pier to avoid being pushed back into the pier as the tide was going north.

It was a sleepy day at the pier. No other bait fish seemed to be around other than smelt. The bait of choice seemed to be live blood worms. Our bite was best on live blood worms but we only had one container. Second best bait seemed to be Berkeley gulp sand worms (makes sense if the fish are wanting live bloodworms). Third was shrimp. Strangely enough there was no interest in mussels which seems to usually be the bait of choice in that area. We tried fishing shucked mussels that we got at Big Fish Tackle but even the guys fishing fresh mussels seem to be getting few bites.

My girl used a sabiki while I was gone to get a couple live smelt. I nose hooked a live smelt onto a traditional halibut rig using a size 2 hook and a 1.5 torpedo sinker. It was not crowded where we were so I chose the sinker for better casting and so that the tide would move the rig a little. Then I hooked up onto something bigger on the halibut rig but lost it because of a bad knot on my hook. After retying and rebaiting, I caught a 19" Halibut. I bought a Hoop net for an occasion like this two weeks ago and ironically this was my first opportunity to bring it to the pier. I gave my girl my pole and in a frenzy to get the net in the water I was unable to fully untangle it so the net was sitting sideways instead of flat to the water. I was able to swing the net sideways along the water to net the fish. Crowd gathered as we were pulling it up. Fish was good size but looked short. After I measured I used my grabber to lip the fish and send it back to the water. I'm disappointed that I didn't wait to get a quick picture but this was my first Halibut, first time using the net and the crowd that was gathered was sizable. All these factors had me antsy to get the fish back in the water.

In that same general area two other people landed halibut. One 17" and the other I believe was slightly smaller. So it was a good spot for Halibut as the fish I hooked up on and lost was probably a halibut and another gentleman also hooked up and lost a fish on a live smelt. As far as lost fish, we lost three good sized fish due to failed knots. One my girl hooked while I was gone getting our tackle box. I tied a 12lb mono leader onto her 15lb braid with a uni to uni knot. But the knot was old and had been tied a handful of trips ago. When she hooked that bigger fish the knot failed, so lesson learned about retying leader new on each trip. I lost another fish when a hook I tied using a snell knot failed. That was my first time tying that knot so I must have done it improperly. It is frustrating to lose fish like this but I guess it is still better to get the bites and even fun to imagine how big the fish were that you lost.

I was also fishing another pole with a hi-lo rig with size 6 bait-holder hooks. I caught small yellow fin croaker on Gulp sandworm with that pole and a few larger smelt.

As the tide started moving out our spot was now in very shallow water, we relocated to mid pier area to follow the bait fish. This time we were fishing the South side of the pier. We saw a few very dramatic bonito boils. The water was clear enough to see the fish clearly as they came to the surface in groups of three or four to hunt the smelt. I quickly popped my weight off my halibut rig and started fly lining my live smelt. I also switched to a 15g Jigpara minijig but could not get the bonito to bite. I didn't actually walk down to the end but given how few people were fishing past the morning and how quiet everyone was I'm assuming no one else was catching bonito either.

This was one of the slowest days we've ever experience at the HB Pier. No mackerel, no sardines, only smelt as far as bait fish goes. I still had a great time because I feel that much closer to my goal of catching a keeper halibut off the pier. Since I set the goal for myself there has been a steady progression towards the goal. At first, I caught a small sand dab that I mistook for a baby halibut. Then while I was fishing on another day a guy caught a 22" halibut on a sabiki rig after he was late reeling up a small mackerel that he caught on a rig he had dropped to the bottom. Then today I catch my first halibut, a decent 19" one.
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