Howdy everyone. I hope you have been getting out and enjoying the outdoors lately. The winds are abating, the air is warmer and the daylight hours are significantly longer!
We’ve seen some great catches of rockfish from both nearshore and our long-leader fisheries as of late, but crabbing remains slower than we would like to see. People catch some crab, but folks aren’t necessarily bringing in limits.
Lingcod remains hit or miss, and surfperch are taking over the Umpqua right along with the shad! There’s pretty much something for everyone right now.
As of late I’ve received a lot of calls and questions about the California halibut that we have in our bay and on the Coquille system, as well, so I thought this would be a perfect time for a re-run of an article we first published in 2016. This also works great because I am swamped and up to my ears in everything I do and am currently two days behind my deadline for this article.
Just for the record, newspaper editors are generally cruel and abusive and will resort to physical abuse and not so subtle verbal assaults when they have a writer like me to deal with (just think Lou Grant or Peter Parker’s boss, but worse)!
Here we go folks, a flashback to 2016.
Something we’ve seen a lot of in our bay this season is the elusive and coveted California halibut. As folks have been out trolling for salmon in the bay an occasional one of these “bonus catches” will make itself known, to the delight and excitement of the fisherman or woman on the working end of the rod and reel.
Last week as we were live on air for our hour-long Basin Tackle Outdoor Show and we were interviewing one of our Basin Tackle team members when his boat hooked into one. New Guy Nick from Basin Tackle and his dad, Jon Holder of Code 7 Sportfishing Charters, were chatting away with us during the commercial break as they hooked up a salmon.
The timing was perfect and just as soon as we came back from the break, Nick shouted out “it’s not a salmon, it’s a halibut!”
At first glimpse when it broke the surface they, estimated it was about 50 pounds. Having done this for a few years now I’m used to folks overestimating the size of their catch so I said “hey folks you heard it live, they caught a 30 pound halibut, good going guys, nothing like a 17-pound halibut while out salmon fishing.”
Well it turns out the joke was on me, that fish was a solid 55 pounds (Captain Jon Holder is good at what he does and his estimation was impressively close). To add to the mix, they then hooked up a nice Chinook salmon and fought ‘em both, all while being interviewed live on air!
That’s some seriously impressive guiding from Captain Jon and New Guy Nick.
Although not really seen in great numbers north of central California, it turns out these halibut range from Baja, California to the Quillayute River in Washington.
Spending most of their time in shallow water and estuaries, the California halibut is an ambush hunter and will bury itself in the sand up to its eyes and will sit and wait for a tasty meal to come in close enough. Their diet, much like mine, can be described as “most anything swimming by that will fit in their mouths.”
California halibut can be either “right eyed” or “left eyed,” which is unique for a flatfish. Most species of flatfish will have their eye either on their left side or right side of their head/body and all but one in 20,000 Pacific halibut are right eyed, so don’t try using that as an identifier.
A good identifier between a California and Pacific halibut is the body shape. The Pacific halibut that we most commonly see in these parts have a diamond shape, and the California are far more oval. The coolest part of this fish is that as far as we can tell, the one NG Nick and Captain Jon caught is a new state record. I know these guys well and it doesn’t surprise me one bit.
Whether your salmon fishing trip turns to halibut catching or you are crabbing off the docks I hope to see you out there.