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California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) are a species of flatfish that are native to the eastern Pacific Ocean, ranging from Alaska to the Gulf of California. They are a popular sport fish and are also commercially harvested in California.
California halibut can grow up to 5 feet in length and weigh up to 50 pounds, although most caught by recreational anglers are much smaller, typically ranging from 12 to 30 inches in length. They have an oval-shaped body that is flattened laterally, with both eyes on one side of the head. They have a brownish-green coloration with a white underbelly, and their skin is covered in small scales.
California halibut are primarily found in nearshore waters over sandy or muddy bottoms, although they can also be found in deeper waters offshore. They are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of fish, squid, and crustaceans.
In California, the recreational fishing season for halibut is open year around with a daily bag limit of three fish north of Point Sur Monterey County and five fish to the south. The minimum size limit is 22 inches.
I start by looking for areas where halibut are known to be present, such as sandy or muddy bottoms, rocky reefs, or areas with kelp beds. Halibut tend to hide in the sand or mud, so look for signs of disturbance on the bottom, such as small depressions or halibut tracks. I personally look in the sand channels between rocky reefs.
My daughter, Hailey, first halibut at 6 years old.
The best time to spearfish for halibut in Southern California typically is in spring and summer months, but it can also depend on various factors, including weather conditions, water temperature, and the halibut's spawning behavior.
In general, halibut tend to move into shallower waters and feed more actively as the water temperature warms up in the spring and summer months especially during grunion runs. This makes the period between May and August a good time to target halibut in Southern California.
As mentioned above, the best way to find halibut is during grunion run at night in shallow water. Obviously, you will need a flashlight and the proper speargun. For Halibut, you do not need a long speargun at all. My biggest halibut to date was 42" long and 33 pounds. I actually stab the fish with a 18" long metal poker while I was diving at work. The point is that the fish allowed me to swim right up to it. Also, just use a regular flopper shaft, no need for a slip tip because you will be shooting into the bottom. Be patient! Halibut hunting requires you to cover a lot of ground and because these fish are so well camouflage lying on the bottom, you should swim slowly.