Halibut Hunting

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Halibut Hunting

Postby SeaBear » August 31st, 2020, 10:39 am

Hi Everyone,

Would anyone be willing to share general advice and techniques on halibut hunting? Is it as easy as going out to open sand and just covering large amounts of area?

Additionally, does anyone have dive light recommendations for halibut hunting? Any advice on lumens, wide/narrow beams, battery? I'm located in Orange County if it helps.

Thanks in advance.



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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby pcantonius » August 31st, 2020, 11:41 am

Shallow... like 3-5 feet deep. Some people swear by hunting the sand channels next to eel grass and shallow reef (like the 10-15' depth) but I have better luck hugging the shoreline. My advice is to pick a beach with shallow reef structure, go when the surf is flat on a high tide and cover lots of ground until you find a productive spot. They're easier to find at night when they're sleeping on top of the sand. During the daytime they tend to bury themselves. These are the second most frustrating fish to hunt besides WSB.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby chris oak » August 31st, 2020, 12:43 pm

No it's flipping hard. Mainly because they come in depending on weather and food factors, one day they might be everywhere and the next you won't see a single one.

If you are diving at night, make sure you are very very comfortable with your gear. If you shoot a big fish and it wraps you up you are in big trouble. I would start out during the day and learn what to look for, I look for eyes/mouth and tail. My gun is marked off at 22" so I can size up the fish. Normally I'll see them in areas where there is reef next to sand, if there's grass/kelp than it's even better.

It took me a very long time to learn how to hunt halibut, a guy named Mike Bowling taught me years ago. He took me to a spot where the halibut were and it went like this: "there's one right under me". I'd dive down and look and see nothing. "where?". Right where you dove down. I'd do it again. "Where???". You almost hit it with your fin". Finally I went down and saw it and shot my first legal halibut. It usually takes me somewhere around an hour to cover a couple hundred feet, Mike Ploessel said, "look for something in the sand that doesn't look right". That advice has paid off immensely, you will see something that doesn't look exactly right, then as you focus BOOM the halibut will spook. I love seeing those guys, it's like a easter egg hunt and super gratifying when you find them.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby John Hughes » August 31st, 2020, 8:06 pm

chris oak wrote:No it's flipping hard. Mainly because they come in depending on weather and food factors, one day they might be everywhere and the next you won't see a single one.

If you are diving at night, make sure you are very very comfortable with your gear. If you shoot a big fish and it wraps you up you are in big trouble. I would start out during the day and learn what to look for, I look for eyes/mouth and tail. My gun is marked off at 22" so I can size up the fish. Normally I'll see them in areas where there is reef next to sand, if there's grass/kelp than it's even better.

It took me a very long time to learn how to hunt halibut, a guy named Mike Bowling taught me years ago. He took me to a spot where the halibut were and it went like this: "there's one right under me". I'd dive down and look and see nothing. "where?". Right where you dove down. I'd do it again. "Where???". You almost hit it with your fin". Finally I went down and saw it and shot my first legal halibut. It usually takes me somewhere around an hour to cover a couple hundred feet, Mike Ploessel said, "look for something in the sand that doesn't look right". That advice has paid off immensely, you will see something that doesn't look exactly right, then as you focus BOOM the halibut will spook. I love seeing those guys, it's like a easter egg hunt and super gratifying when you find them.


LOL Mike took me out to shoot my first one as well. It went exactly like it did for you but he actually had to dive down, creep up on the fish and point it out for me. After I dove down and shot it I thought "well, that was stupid." :rofl:

It is a hard fish to hunt but I find that like anything else, if you put in the time it will produce.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby gringo sushi » September 1st, 2020, 3:25 pm

If you have seen a fish and have the opportunity, approach it from the front so that when it takes off it will swim up your shaft rather than having it hang on the flopper that may not have had the chance to open. I also try to follow my shot by grabbing the shaft and shoving it into the sand (especially when shooting from directly above). If I can keep the shaft pinned in the sand I'll slide my hand down to pin fish to the sand then slide my other hand under the fish to end up holding the shaft with both hands and fish in between.

And look out for the chompers! Lots of sharp teeth can puncture thru most gloves. When i stringer them up I run a loop around their lips to kinda sew their mouth shut to keep those teeth out of play.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby BigJim » September 2nd, 2020, 12:02 pm

Excellent info and advice above for sure...

Here's a quick clip of a fish from about 4 months ago that might help you visualize some of the stuff already mentioned...

https://youtu.be/iJmZ1W9YhaI

1. Fish was laying right next to structure...whenever I see structure (eel grass, rocks, rubble, wreckage etc) I try and slow down (even more) and really check around all edges...

2. Fish was shot head on and swam up shaft and strung itself on shooting line.

3. I tried to grab the fish but it took off and I let it run...unless you're sure the shot is super solid (or unless you can pin it right away and get hand in throat) I think best not to horse them and risk ripping shaft out...

4. Once I got my hand in throat I bled it right away...really helps with meat quality and you will see a difference when filleting when meat is not all bloody and messy...



5. Can see when brain fish (right where the two ridges meet) how fish twitches and jerks and then goes limp...fish below wasn't brained but the spot is circled... :rolls:




Hope that helps!

:greetings-wavingyellow:

Sincerely,

Jim
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby John Hughes » September 2nd, 2020, 4:08 pm

That was probably one of the best halibut vids I've seen. Clean water and a big fish. Perfect example of how to hunt them and where they hang out. You've also obviously got the braining wired.

Great job Jim!

Maybe another of the better halibut vids out there is one that Dam made. He spooks just about every one he sees. It's painfully funny because it's so close to my experience, especially at that spot he's diving in the vid. Maybe he'll post it up.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby dam » September 2nd, 2020, 4:58 pm

John Hughes wrote:Maybe another of the better halibut vids out there is one that Dam made. He spooks just about every one he sees. It's painfully funny because it's so close to my experience, especially at that spot he's diving in the vid. Maybe he'll post it up.

:bowrofl:
Not gonna turn down an opportunity to pimp my videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XWkI13oDbU
BTW, the "official guide" in the video's name was a joke.

Edit: Jesus, Jim! That video is so good! The music makes me feel like I went on an adventure! :bow-blue:
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby John Hughes » September 2nd, 2020, 8:11 pm

thanks Dam, I love that vid.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby BigJim » September 3rd, 2020, 6:21 am

Thanks John and Dam!

Dam, I've watched your video soooo many times...especially when I was looking for my first one...really great footage!

:hi5:

Sincerely,

Jim

ps...I think probably the best advice for someone starting to hunt these guys is to put in the time....Like John said above: "It is a hard fish to hunt but I find that like anything else, if you put in the time it will produce."

These fish move in and out a fair amount (some days a spot will be loaded and the next day it is totally empty), some days the viz is horrible on the surface but decent on the bottom (or vice versa lol)...you really never know for sure until you suit up and get out there...

I've seen reports of crap viz and gone anyway, and been very glad that I did...and vice versa when I've heard that the fish are in and the viz is good and I can't find shit lol...

The more time you spend looking for them the better you will get to know the terrain they like, what spots/areas will be more likely to produce given different conditions, and most importantly what works for you and what doesn't....

Even when you come home skunked, I think the time spent hunting and being out there just helps build up your knowledge and skill and increases the chances that the next time you go out you will find an awesome fish.

:obscene-drinkingcheers:
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby Adam Sachs » September 3rd, 2020, 2:02 pm

BigJim wrote:
The more time you spend looking for them the better you will get to know the terrain they like, what spots/areas will be more likely to produce given different conditions, and most importantly what works for you and what doesn't....

Even when you come home skunked, I think the time spent hunting and being out there just helps build up your knowledge and skill and increases the chances that the next time you go out you will find an awesome fish.



Bingo.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby grometito » September 3rd, 2020, 5:08 pm

I have heard that a lot of the smaller halibut are males, and the bigger ones are usually females. As well as if there are smaller ones around a big female might be near. I have been only seeing really short to 15-16” fish recently, and have tried looking in the vicinity but haven’t been able to locate the big female. Is there any truth to this theory and if so can anyone provide a couple tips?

Thanks
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby chris oak » September 3rd, 2020, 7:26 pm

grometito wrote:I have heard that a lot of the smaller halibut are males, and the bigger ones are usually females. As well as if there are smaller ones around a big female might be near. I have been only seeing really short to 15-16” fish recently, and have tried looking in the vicinity but haven’t been able to locate the big female. Is there any truth to this theory and if so can anyone provide a couple tips?

Thanks


I think that is a possibility, but when you see a lot of small halibut a lot of times that's all you will see in that area. The really big halibut (say over 20lbs) I normally see in deeper reef areas of 20 to 40 feet water in so cal. I'm sure they come in shallow as well, but I've only shot 3 fish over 20lb and they were all from deeper reefs.

Hopefully guys with more big hali experience can chime in, I know in the harbor there are big halibut up in the shallows.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby malibujohn » September 3rd, 2020, 9:09 pm

Lots of good advice! Can't emphasize how important is is to go sloooow! Also, bait is a huge factor. I've shot 4 over 40 and besides the big one that came up on a flasher in 100 feet of water, all the rest were in big runs of bait, no deeper than 10-12 feet of water. Twice with anchovies and once with herring! My girl even sent me a video at work of birds going nuts out front. Literally chasing bait up on the beach. I packed the tools up, jammed home and popped a 42 in shit vis, 5 minutes into the dive! Good luck
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby dam » September 4th, 2020, 10:57 am

malibujohn wrote:Lots of good advice! Can't emphasize how important is is to go sloooow! Also, bait is a huge factor. I've shot 4 over 40 and besides the big one that came up on a flasher in 100 feet of water, all the rest were in big runs of bait, no deeper than 10-12 feet of water. Twice with anchovies and once with herring! My girl even sent me a video at work of birds going nuts out front. Literally chasing bait up on the beach. I packed the tools up, jammed home and popped a 42 in shit vis, 5 minutes into the dive! Good luck


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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby grometito » September 15th, 2020, 9:47 am

How about fish and light management when hunting at night? Gun in one hand, light in the other, you shoot a hot fish, now what? You kind of need both hands. I’ve tried some of the Princeton headlamps but I’m on my 3rd one, they break a lot and give off an annoying glare a lot of the time.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby John Hughes » September 15th, 2020, 3:18 pm

grometito wrote:How about fish and light management when hunting at night? Gun in one hand, light in the other, you shoot a hot fish, now what?


ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE :rofl:

I remember my first fish shot at night I got so jacked up, tangled up, losing gear left and right I finally had to swim the whole mess onto the sand and sort it out. LOL

Personally, I don't see how guys do it without a headlamp. I use the mini Q 40 and it works really well although not the cheapest on the market. I also use my main light on a custom 25' floatline so I can just drop it and come back to it as it frees up a hand. I also had a custom gun made by Mike Novotny here on the board that has a reel on it so I've got one less line to deal with. Without that headlamp though, I have no idea how you see anything in the pitch dark with no light....

Last edited by John Hughes on September 16th, 2020, 4:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby grometito » September 15th, 2020, 6:58 pm

I am going to have to check out that q40 light, looks like a safer way to attach than the go pro mount light that goes on top of the mask. Gets snagged a lot, have had my mask ripped off by kelp at depth.
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Re: Halibut Hunting

Postby NaClAddict » September 17th, 2020, 6:39 pm

I made a bunch of mask strap light holders out of old wetsuit. Basically a square with four holes. Poke the light through one hole, wrap neoprene around light, poke light through the adjacent hole. Repeat with the second set of holes.
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