The California halibut or California flounder, Paralichthys californicus, is a large-tooth flounder native to the waters of the Pacific Coast of North America from the Quillayute River in Washington to Magdalena Bay in Baja California. It feeds near shore and is free swimming. It typically weighs 6 to 30 pounds (3 to 23 kg). It is much smaller than the larger and more northern-ranging Pacific halibut that can reach 300 pounds (140 kg).
A top level predator that hunts by stealth, it is prized by fishermen as great table fare.
Sport fishers typically use light fishing gear and live baits for this halibut. Baits include anchovies, sardine, squid, mackerel, and queenfish (brownbait). Some anglers use plastic lures and scampitype "lead heads" to fool a halibut into striking.
Mostly fishing from boats in the coastal regions, anglers catch good quantities of halibut in 10 to 80 feet of water. Sometimes the fish are caught from shore or by kayak fishermen in very shallow water. Slow trolling and drift fishing is the preferred method of bait presentation.
This is an unusual fish in that one eye has to migrate around from one side to the other as it grows from an upright fry or baby fish into an adult fish that lies on its side. The adult has two eyes on the up-side as it lies on the bottom. Most flatfish are generally either right-eyed or left-eyed, but the California halibut is unusual in having a roughly even number of each type. Like other flatfish, the halibut hides under sand or loose gravel and blends into the bottom.
The halibut is loved as a sport fishing target species and prized by fishermen of the southern California coastline. It has been taken frequently from shore by surf fishermen. It is sometimes caught from the rocks or near piers. However the most common way to catch them is from a boat with a live bait while drifting across the water. Santa Monica Bay and Los Angeles Harbor are famous for the success of catching them this way.
Prior to the decline of numbers of halibut found in Santa Monica Bay the two boats from the Marina del Rey sportfishing fleet annually recorded in the neighborhood of 3,500 legal size halibut caught. In its heyday, (1987) the Santa Monica Bay Halibut Derby, a two-day event, attracted just under 2,000 participants fishing from 600+ boats making it the largest fishing tournament on the Pacific Coast of North America. The Santa Monica Bay Halibut Derby which was created to be a source of funding for the Halibut Hatchery Program and the first large scale deep-sea youth fishing program, was discontinued in 2002.
A fishing event in Santa Monica Bay, the Marina Del Rey Halibut Derby, continues to target halibut but due to a lack of fish among other things only attracted 125 entrants in 2015.
- 1. Pacific Coast Sportfishing magazine May 2015 page 80.
- "Paralichthys californicus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 18 April 2006.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2006). "Paralichthys californicus" in FishBase. February 2006 version.
- Dr. Larry Allen of CSUN.edu on California Halibut
- California Halibut is key fish of oldest fishing tournament in Southern California - MDR Halibut Derby
- Tips for California Halibut fishing.
- California World Record Halibut
- Miller, D.L. and R.N. Lea. 1972. Guide to the coastal marine fishes of California. Calif. Dept. Fish and Game, Fish Bull. 157. 299 p
- Oda, D. 1991. Development of eggs and larvae of California halibut Paralichthys californicus and fantail sole Xystreurys liolepis (Pisces: Paralichthyidae). Fishery Bulletin, U.S. 89:387-402.