There are few things I like more than halibut fishing and Spring is when halibut here on the Southern California coast are hungry and horny.
On a good day,Brown flatties test your skill, and fishing tackle. On a bad day they test your patience and sometimes make you wish you’d taken up golf.My approach to halibut fishing is that of an experienced observational angler.
I cheat: I mark the locations on a map of the southern California coast where I've caught them in the past, and I note weather, water and tides on the map. That map lives in a plastic bag in my smelly tackle box.
Over the last eight years I've managed to routinely get decent legal California Halibut into my boat and developed an appreciation for making sure I use the right terminal tackle when I’m stalking flatties.
The quickest way for me to reevaluate golf as a substitute hobby for fishing is when: I’m looking at 25 yards of expensive monofilament disappearing into the surf line, get a hit, start smoothly cranking, feel the fish begin to fight, get it close enough to the shore (to see that it’s a legal sized, 24-inch,fish) and have the line go slack.
Oops. I forgot to use wire leader-- something I do at least once every couple of years.
My love of halibut fishing was fueled early in my youth by seeing 36-inch or larger halibut caught by family members.There are few species here in Southern California that fight like a flatty, or which taste as good.
And there still here, if you know where to fish and don’ forget to use the right bait or lure and always remember to use wire leader as part of your terminal tackle.
One of my favorite places to fish for halibut is aboard Camp Pendleton at Red Beach and Crystal Cove, in Orange County, south of Newport Beach offf the Pacific Coast Highway (“PCH”).
Camp Pendleton’s Las Pulgas (aka “Red”) Beach is under utilized and is a pristine halibut fishery. It’s also one of the prettiest camping areas in California.. It’s inner tidal zone is sandy with just enough structure to make your basic ambush feeding flatty very happy.
The trick here is to get your bait or lure just beyond or in the surfline. I heave one and half ounce surf lead with four feet of leader connected to a whole shank-hooked anchovy. No bait is available at this beach , so bring your own. I've had as much success in the last three years throwing a green and white spoon with a number two hook as I have had with bait Also, every flatty I’ve caught here or up the coast at Crystal Cove State park, has been on slack water right before an ebb flow in about ten feet of water.
Red beach is part of Camp Pendleton. to reach it take the Las Pulgas Road off ramp off of I-5 between Oceanside and San Clemency , CA) .
For more information on or camping permits for Las Pulgas beach call the Camp Pendleton Duty Game Warden at (760) 725-3586 NO EARLIER THAN 1730 (5:30 P.M.) THURSDAY prior to a weekend to determine if the beaches are “open” for camping. The Duty Game Warden is the ONLY individual who has the correct up-to-date information on whether the beach is open or closed. Military policemen at entrance gates do not have this information. Bee aware that beach areas may be restricted or closed at anytime due to military training requirements. Therefore, campers are advised to phone the Duty Warden prior to leaving their residence in order to get the most up-to-date information
Warning; if you’re fishing Red beach in limited visibility and hear what sounds like one or more DC10’a and heavy machinery, reel in quickly and find a place nearby where you’re easily seen. This beach is often used by the Marines to practice amphibious assaults so it’s not uncommon to see giant air cushion or tracked landing craft lumbering ashore here. If you’re asked to leave by members of the Marine Shore Party. do so using the exit paths shown.
Crystal Cove crystal cove map-- is where I really learned to enjoy surf fishing as a kid, is my other favorite halibut fishery. you need to bring your own bait.this California state park has everything a growing halibut wants: basic structure, sandy bottom and a surplus of tasty bait; including surf perch. Crystal cove is also the location of my biggest ever California Halibut sighting. While snorkeling just beyond the surf I noticed an irregular shape nestled down on the sand. I suspect the fish was 42 to 48 inches long and at least 45 pounds. i deeply regretted not having a spear with me. Snorkeling any beach where you intend to fish regularly for Halibut is a great idea because it lets you visualize the bottom and examine the fishery.
There are a couple of other great halibut fisheries on the Southern California coast. Highest on my list are Zuma beach in Malibu and the small sandy beaches between Oceanside and Carlsbad.
So don’t wait for the warm summer sun. It’s almost Spring so re-spool your reels with good medium weight monofilament, sharpen your hooks and don’t forget your wire leader and a pair fishing pliers. It’s halibut time on the Southern California coast--Jim ”Gone Fishing” Forbes- on 02/21/2011.