The basics of fishing for halibut from piers — 1930

Ken Jones

Staff member
Pier Fishing—Should you wish to try pier fishing for halibut, go to Long Wharf for instance and here’s the hook-up. Use a split bamboo rod of medium weight and a free spool reel of 250 yards capacity of nine-thread line, (use up to eighteen-thread line if desired, the smaller the sportier) with drag handle. Attach a three-foot wire leader and a six to eight-ounce sinker, depending on strength of tides. Midway of the leader attach a drop leader eighteen inches along with only one hook—size 2-0 to 4-0. Equip your leaders with snap swivels and the assembling is but a matter of seconds. Use small live bait, anchovies preferred; cut salt bait or clams if live bait is not available. Cast away, letting sinker touch bottom. Then take in some of the slack, not all, but leave enough to allow the sinker to rest on the bottom and the live bait to swim freely around the leader. In placing a live bait on the hook, put hook lightly through the skin on the back between head and dorsal fin, never through the nose, the body or tail. Hooked as described the live bait will live longer and be freer in its movements.

The reason for allowing the sinker to rest on the bottom is that halibut are bottom fish, always being on or just above the floor of the ocean. The reason for the small live bait is that halibut have exceptionally small mouths.

The strike at first is a faint nibble. Then comes a tug, then, if hooked, a vicious tug and a pull. A halibut’s fight is not spectacular, for you seldom see him until ready to land or gaff, but once hooked, the fish will fight slowly and strongly. If it’s a big baby and you’re equipped with light tackle, you’re in for some workout. You’ll realize you’ve had a tussle after its landed.

Landing a halibut when fishing from a pier, or a boat for that matter is a ticklish job at best. The best of the halibut fishermen lose them once in a while. Take your time. Reel in slowly and keep your line taunt and your rod up at an angle. When fish is alongside the pier, breaking water, continue as above—reel slowly, hauling fish straight up, until opposite railing or pier floor, then swing in and drop your fish well away from the edge.

Due to the smallness and tenderness of a halibut’s mouth, one little wiggle is likely to free it.

—Frank M. Bockway, Los Angeles Times, March 30, 1930

Hi guys, Ken my friend, been a long time.
I still think back to the old fishing tournaments we had (seems like a lifetime ago).
I always did well at Cabrillo Beach pier on the halibut. Used a California rig /modified Carolina rig and berkleys power worms. Like the trout worms, caught many a halibut on the same worm/bait.
Been quite a while since I've been out there amongst you all. Sitting here today @ Ventura Beach, beach house just south of Seaward. Gotta late start this morning, but I will be out @ 6am or so tomorrow morning. Stop by if anyone is in the area surf fishing between Seaward and the harbor ⚓. You can't miss this old bearded jarhead, I'll have a knee brace on and be cranking away in the surf. Supposedly, tomorrow's going to be a good fishing day. 😂 Fishing don't mean catching. But it's all good. 🎣 Good luck out there anglers.
I hope to get plugged back into Ken's site and start fishing again. Hopefully run into some of yuns out there.
Richard G.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Richard, Good to hear from you. The regulars that know what they are doing are still catching halibut at the Cabrillo Pier!