Study Methods to Kayak Fish for California Halibut

By mid-afternoon, the San Francisco Bay had began to get uneven. As a first-time kayak fisherman, the whitecaps have been making me nervous. However my new Old Town Bigwater 132 PDL felt steady sufficient—and the halibut have been biting. I simply wasn’t touchdown them. I’d had a few brief strikes within the morning. Later, I’d hooked into what felt like a pleasant one, nevertheless it got here off earlier than I may get eyes on it. Previous City had set me up for a day on the bay with pro-staffers Annie Nagel and Virginia Salvador, a co-captain at Gatecrasher Fishing Adventures. They’d each boated keeper California halibut, and I meant to take action, too.

Simply as I assumed we’d want to go again to the boat ramp for a day, I felt a tug. I fed the fish line—halibut are infamous for brief strikes—and after I began reeling, I felt the fish on the finish of my line and rapidly introduced it to the floor. It took a few brief runs earlier than I netted it. At that second, I noticed the enchantment of saltwater kayak fishing.

California halibut are smaller than their better-known cousins, Pacific Halibut. Chasing California halibut is a wonderful means for novice saltwater kayak anglers to get their ft moist. The fish are sometimes caught in bays—the San Francisco Bay and the San Diego Bay are two well-liked waterbodies for concentrating on them—that are much less daunting and harmful than the open ocean. The techniques of kayak fishing for California halibut are additionally comparatively easy and don’t require a ton of substances. However the fishing may be nonetheless be a problem—and chasing California halibut is thrilling sufficient to maintain even essentially the most seasoned kayak angler engaged. Should you’re new to saltwater kayak fishing or attempting to get dialed in on the summer season halibut chunk, right here’s what I realized from Nagel and Salvador—two of the perfect Pacific Coast kayak anglers within the sport.

Rig Up Proper

Establishing a halibut rig is easy. That you must use a weight that’s heavy sufficient to achieve the underside, relying on tide circumstances. Having a mixture of in-line or circle sinkers from 4 ounces to 16 ounces is good. You’ll wish to drop your weight off to 1 aspect utilizing a three-way swivel and fasten a mono chief to the opposite finish.

You possibly can jig for halibut or use synthetic trolling techniques however utilizing bait for halibut is only. When you have entry to dwell bait, use it. “There’s nothing like fishing a dwell shiner,” says Nagel. “You’ll really feel it fluttering out of your rod, however the halibut go nuts for it. I’d anticipate to get far more motion on dwell bait as a result of the bait does extra of the work.”

Nagel likes to connect a bucket with holes in it to the aspect of her kayak to maintain the bait alive by flushing water by it as she paddles. Salvador has a transportable dwell nicely with an aerator that she will stow at the back of her kayak. You possibly can preserve it easy and rig the dwell bait with a easy j-hook on the nostril.

If dwell bait is unavailable, frozen bait will work simply high quality. Tray anchovies and herring are well-liked and efficient choices. You’ll wish to use a two-hook rig with a stinger, lipping the highest hook by the lip and the underside hook by the aspect of the bait. Nagel suggests utilizing a treble hook for the trailer because it improves hook-ups, however it might make it tougher to launch shakers. “Presentation is so essential, so change out your baits even with the slightest scratch,” provides Nagel.

Fish the Backside

kayak angler with bent fishing rod from halibut
Salvador fights a keeper halibut. Annie Nagel

Whether or not you go for dwell or frozen bait, the on-the-water techniques are very easy. That you must slowly bounce your weight towards the seafloor. Be sure you can really feel the underside along with your rod. Halibut are ambush predators and are drawn to the undulating movement of the bait transferring up and down—nevertheless it should be very near the underside. You have to to regulate your sinker weight relying on the tide. If the tide is ripping, placed on a heavier sinker so that you just nonetheless have a stable connection to the seafloor. If it’s not, go for a lighter weight for higher really feel.

Drift, Troll, or Each

To get into fish, attempt alternating between drifting with the tide and slowly trolling. Trolling is usually a great way to cowl floor and get right into a zone the place the fish are, however when you do, decelerate. There are in all probability different halibut close by, and also you don’t wish to depart fish to seek out fish. The halibut chunk can change relying on the day. Generally, drifting slowly will work higher if the fish aren’t feeding aggressively. Different instances, you may cowl extra floor and get into extra fish if the chunk is extensive open.

Crew Up

two kayak anglers hold halibut
The writer celebrates his first kayak-fished halibut. Virginia Salvador

Halibut fishing is a staff sport—a minimum of, it must be. Halibut are education fish and have a tendency to congregate collectively. Like flounder, they usually lie flat towards sandy bottoms. The extra disturbance you and your buddies could make by drifting by a zone the place halibut are current, the higher your probability of getting a hook-up.

“There’s a purpose why constitution boats are so efficient for halibut,” explains Salvador. “They’ve obtained a minimum of six rods in without delay, which causes quite a lot of commotion underwater and prompts the halibut.”

Should you’re fishing with different kayak anglers, group yourselves shut collectively collectively, successfully mimicking a constitution boat. If not, don’t be afraid to fish the place constitution boats and different anglers are congregating—however be sure to keep a secure and respectful distance. 

Time the Tides

Halibut usually prefer to chunk when the tide is slower. “They aren’t very energetic when it’s actually ripping,” says Nagel. “Top-of-the-line instances to fish for them is within the hour or two earlier than or after a excessive tide. That’s when it actually will get good.” Low tide may present an excellent window for halibut as long as the water readability stays good.

Discover Your Honey Holes

Halibut prefer to nestle themselves in deeper holes the place they will relaxation towards the underside after which spring up and seize baitfish passing above. Use a kayak-ready fish finder monitor water depth and fish deeper areas extra totally. One other good method to goal holes the place halibut are prone to congregate is by utilizing digital marine mapping software program reminiscent of Navionics, which can provide you an in depth understanding of the water depth and construction with out requiring a fish finder.

Be Affected person on the Hook Set

Halibut typically strike on the tail of your bait earlier than committing to it. A halibut will generally provide you with a stable strike, however extra typically, you’ll really feel only a bump or a heaviness on the backside of the road. “I all the time assume it’s a fish,” says Salvador. “I’d fairly do this, even when it’s not, than probably miss a fish.”

As an alternative of instantly setting the hook, Salvador suggests pointing your rod down towards the strike, flipping your bail open, and feeding out fishing line for 10 to fifteen seconds. This provides the fish sufficient time to get snug sufficient to take the bait extra totally. Nagel doesn’t use this method. As an alternative, she lets the rod load up, holding the bait within the strike zone with out placing slack into the road.

angler holds halibut from kayak
Stay bait works finest for halibut however frozen bait does simply high quality. Annie Nagel

No matter which technique works higher for you, neither Nagel nor Salvador recommends giving a tough hook set, which may probably rip the hook out of the fish’s comfortable mouth. As an alternative, carry the rod up firmly and put constant stress on the fish. Your objective is to easily carry the fish up off the underside.  

Set the Drag Unfastened

Small halibut don’t put up a ton of combat, however that’s not what you’re after. While you’re kayak fishing for giant halibut, you may’t put the identical form of torque on the fish as you’ll on a ship, which makes it particularly essential to maintain your drag set looser than you may assume. A giant halibut can placed on blistering runs, probably breaking your line or pulling your rod into the water.

Be Stealthy on the Web

One of many challenges of kayak fishing is netting your fish with one hand whilst you reel it in with the opposite. Halibut don’t begin preventing exhausting till simply earlier than they attain the floor—which is after they typically begin to run. While you do go in for the online, slip it beneath the fish as stealthily as you may after which scoop it up fairly than going proper at it. “Attempt to do it in a single fast movement,” says Nagel. “The fish will begin freaking out proper after you web it.”

Learn Subsequent: SoCal Kayak Angler Catches 16.75-Pound Largemouth Bass

Gear Tip: Keep Seen

Novice and skilled kayak anglers alike ought to all the time ensure to extend their visibility after they’re on open water, particularly when you’re near large transport channels or heavy boat visitors. I like to recommend the YakAttack VISICarbon Pro Light Flag. It’s collapsible for transport and simply attaches to a kayak gear rail whenever you’re able to fish. The flag is loads seen on most days, and the 17-lumen LED mild may be turned on throughout excessive fog and low-light conditions.

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