Halibut (California halibut, Paralichthys californicus) range from San Francisco to the Gulf of California and are a member of the flounder family. These flat fish feed almost exclusively on anchovies, and have numerous sharp teeth. About 60% of California halibut are left-eyed. They grow to about 70 pounds and five feet in length, and are usually found over sandy or muddy ocean bottom out to about 160 feet deep. Halibut generally eat anything they can swallow, even other Halibut if the size is right. They spend most of their time at the bottom attempting to blend in with the ground, but they might swim around to find food if necessary. Halibut are generally near the top of the food chain due their large size, and as a result they are usually only eaten by larger sea life such as sharks, carnivorous whales, and sea lions.
The California Department of Fish and Game diving record for a California halibut is 72 pounds 8 ounces caught in August of 1982 at Santa Cruz Island. The previous hook and line record of 58 pounds 9 ounces caught at Santa Rosa Island on June 26, 1999 was broken on July 1, 2011 when a 67.3 pound fish was caught at the same island.
Pacific halibut, Hippoglos susstenolepis, found from California to Alaska and into the Bering and Okhotsk seas, often reach in excess of 400 pounds.
In the News~
June 16, 1876 [SBDP]: “There are plenty of fish of all kinds now in the Channel. The luscious pompano, the muddy walleye, the diminutive halibut, and the gamey barracuda. And many are the hooks hanging out for them.”
July 27, 1894 [SBMP]: “Forty large halibut were taken by Captain Larco yesterday.”
July 19, 1900 [SBMP]: “The Ariel arrived last evening from Friar [Frys] Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, with good reports from the Whitney camp. Fishing has been good, the harbor being full of halibut. Several fine albacore were caught by the Ariel in crossing the channel.”
August 14, 1900 [SBMP]: “Captain Short's Ariel returned from the islands yesterday with fish stories galore. The party caught 250 pounds of halibut in a little over two hours' fishing.”
August 24, 1900 [SBMP]: “The biggest fish stories of the season are related by the Van Denbergh-Hixenbaugh party who have been spending their vacation on Santa Cruz Island... They landed 954 mackerel, 40 halibut, 20 yellowtail, and 3 each sea bass, rock fish and bonita...”
July 17, 1904 [SBMP]: “Fishing from boats near the kelp line is reported extra good just now. Some large catches are being made. Halibut are also biting well now...”
May 15, 1906 [SBMP]: “...They caught a number of large fish, the best catch being a 38 pound halibut.”
August 21, 1913 [SBDN]: “Heavy catches of fish are being brought in from the channel these days. Yesterday, fishermen caught and brought here over three tons of halibut, which is one of the largest catches this season. Besides the halibut, quantities of albacore and barracuda are in the channel. The barracuda may be caught but a short distance from the shore, while the albacore run about the middle of the channel.”
August 6, 1914 [SBDNI]: “The chance of losing their halibut fishing privileges in the Santa Barbara channel is worrying the southern fishermen. In Los Angeles the news of the movement to have the next session of the legislature amend the fish and game laws as to include the Santa Barbara channel within the boundaries of the sixth district, has aroused local fishermen to action. They fear that the halibut industry will be ruined and several hundred men put out of business, because of the net restrictions in the sixth district. Santa Barbara county is now a part of the fifth district…”
August 17, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Halibut are being caught by the local fishermen in good-sized hauls, and are now the only fish that are plentiful. The Miramar came in this morning with a good catch of halibut. She also had some fine sea bass.”
January 2, 1915 [SBMP]: “Eagle’s good catch. Captain Frank Maglio came in from the islands yesterday morning with 1800 pounds of fish, mostly halibut. This was the largest catch of fish to be brought in by any boat in a long time.”
January 5, 1915 [SBMP]: “Eagle in with fish. Captain Frank Maglio’s powerboat, the Eagle, came in from the islands yesterday morning with a large catch of halibut.”
January 26, 1915 [SBMP]: “The Eagle brought in 1000 pounds of halibut and sand dabs.”
June 18, 1916 [SBMP]: “The local fishing boats brought in large catches of barracuda and halibut yesterday, and Captain Gourley’s Whitehall boats have been in great demand during the past few days by anglers out for the latter fish, which are quite plentiful between the kelp beds and the shore.”
August 9, 1916 [SBDN]: “The crawfish season, which opens October 15th, gives promise of being the best in these waters for years, according to fishermen who are already getting their traps and paraphernalia in shape and taking the outfits over to the islands… Yesterday between the wharf and the point, more than 200 large herring and several halibut weighing from 12 to 15 pounds were caught. Good catches of jack smelt and rock bass were also taken. ‘I never saw the fishing better so close in,’ said Captain G. W. Gourley at the wharf. ‘The favorable weather and the fact that large schools of sardines are running in the channel helps to make the sport so fine. Anglers who have been going up in the mountains for trout are finding equally as great sport in the harbor.’ Several parties are out today and expect to meet with equally as good luck as those who went out earlier.”
July 29, 1917 [SBMP]: “Market fishermen who are operating on the channel waters report very small hauls for their nets of late — smaller than for years past at this season of the year. A few halibut are coming daily, but most of the stocks for the local market are shipped to San Pedro and San Diego.”
August 6, 1917 [SBDNI]: “Fishermen, both wharf and deep-sea, place Sunday as one of the best fishing days this year. The catches made were unusually large and of the finest fish. This morning the fishing boat Veritas Unitas came in with 2500 green-backed mackerel. A record was also made by the fishing boat Eagle. The Eagle came in this morning with over five tons of halibut.”
January 13, 1919 [SBDN]: “Captain Ira Eaton’s launch Sea Wolf, which is being dolled up at San Pedro, will be ready for use soon, and the captain will take a trip south and bring her back to her home in the channel Waters. Captain Eaton, who is now employed by the Larco Fish market, will then use the Sea Wolf to drag net for halibut. It is rumored that he contemplates making some improvements in his camp on Santa Cruz Island for the summer trade, when the Sea Wolf plies back and forth with passengers to the islands.”
July 2, 2011 [VCS]: “Frank Rivera has been a hands-on participant in the local sportfishing scene for more than two decades. But they are rarely wrapped around a rod and reel. The Oxnard High graduate, Camarillo resident and father of four usually has his hands on the engines of the sportfishing vessels that ferry trophy-hunting anglers to the Channel Islands. Now he is a potential record-breaking fisherman. A marine engineer for Seaboard Marine, Rivera was on the Oxnard company's annual sportfishing trip Friday morning a couple miles off Santa Rosa Island when he reeled in what looks to be the biggest California halibut ever recorded. The 67.1-pound fish is nearly nine pounds bigger than the current all-tackle record, which was also caught off Santa Rosa Island in 1999, according to the International Game Fishing Association. 'It's pretty exciting,' said Rivera. 'I've never done anything like this before. It's been very fun.' History caught Rivera when he was aboard the Mirage, a 60-foot local Thermodyne he has worked on at Seaboard Marine. 'That's what I think is so special about this,' said the Mirage's captain, Joe Villareal. 'Frank is so nice. He's worked on all of our boats, installing engines. He's someone who is very familiar with the local sportfishing boats. He's worked on my boat.' On the dine of Seaboard Marine owner Tony Athens, the Mirage left Channel Islands Sportfishing Center on Thursday night on an overnight trip targeting sea bass. Nearly 24 hours later, they would return with 38 sea bass, three halibut and a world record. Shortly after feeling the bite on his 25-pound line around 8 A.M., Rivera, who had caught a 20-pound halibut and a few rockfish on the two previous company excursions, knew he had something substantial on the end of his line. But you never know what you are going to have on the end of the hook,' Rivera said...”