I recently had the opportunity to view California Halibut at an aquarium. Learning about the fish, how they live and feed, and observing their activity within the somewhat natural environment of the aquarium definitely helps me picture them down below when I’m fishing for them above the water’s surface.
Halibut are ambush predators that camoflage themselves against sandy or gravelly bottom and attack unsuspecting fish that may happen by. With that understanding, it’s easy to see why “bounce balling” is an effective strategy for targeting this prized gamefish. This article from Salt Water Sportsman reveals how to use this deadly rig to successfully catch halibut.
The violent head shakes and solid resistance left no doubt. We had hooked a big California halibut. As my son, Joshua, slowly eased the fish upward, its mottled-brown topside appearing like an apparition in the depths, its impressive size left me temporarily frozen in amazement.
“Get the gaff,” Joshua shouted, snapping me back to the job at hand. By the time I returned to the gunwale, the large ’but was within striking range, and I sank the gaff. As the 33-pounder came aboard, our celebration began.
This species of halibut represents one of the most prized targets for anglers along the coast of California from Point Arena to Point Loma. Though not reaching the immense proportions of Pacific (aka Alaskan) halibut, the California halibut grows to 40 pounds or more, with the California state record (set in 2011) now holding at 67 pounds, 4 ounces.
One of the most effective techniques to emerge in recent years for catching this species is a trolling method known as bounce-balling.
“It’s not really new,” says Santa Barbara Harbor-based Capt. David Bacon, who targets big halibut for guests aboard his 28-foot Wave Walker, with his daughter, Capt. Tiffany Vague, as mate. “Commercial fishermen found out about it accidentally years ago.”
Salmon trollers along the California coast found that their lines near the bottom were hooking a fair number of halibut, according to Bacon. “So some trollers started targeting halibut, and that’s how the technique developed,” he explains. Bacon perfected his techniques while fishing with commercial trollers more than 20 years ago, and then later adapted the same methods to his recreational charters.
Photos: Salt Water Sportsman (top); SoCal Salty (above)