What Does California Halibut Taste like? A Delicious Catch

February 10, 2021

What Does California Halibut Taste like? A Delicious Catch

The California Halibut is fun to catch and delicious to eat. It is considered a prize catch for both recreational and commercial fishermen. But what does California Halibut taste like?

California Halibut has a smooth texture, is mild in flavor, and has succulent, large flakes. There are many ways to prepare this tasty fish, and it can be eaten raw if previously frozen.

Ready to learn more about what does California Halibut tastes like? You’ve come to the right place!

Where Are California Halibut Found?

The California halibut is also known as the California Flounder (Paralichthys californicus), is a large-tooth flounder that you can find off the Pacific Coast of the United States, all the way from Magdalena Bay in Baja California to the Quillayute River in Washington.

What Do California Halibut Eat?

The California Halibut is a strange-looking, awkward fish, and one would be forgiven for thinking these fish are timid. They have sharp teeth, large mouths and are voracious predators, with ambush as the modus operandi.

Anchovies make up most of their diet, but they will feed on most types of fish that happen to be smaller. 

What is the Best Bait for California Halibut?

Live squids are excellent baits for targeting the California Halibut, when they are hard to come by, Pacific Mackerel and Sardines also work really well. we recommend using a California Halibut rig.

The California Halibut loves live baits and tend to spend most of their time on the bottom, so drifting a live bait one foot or two off the bottom should do the trick.

How to Bottom Drift Live Bait

Bottom drifting a bait is relatively easy, whether it’s cut or live baits. You can add weight to your rig to get to the depth required (always pay attention to the current as you might need heavier weights), or you can make use of a popping cork or bobber, with your bait suspended beneath.

Important to note that the difference between bottom fishing and drifting is motion. If your bait is not moving horizontally, you are not drifting.

How to Handle Your Catch

Handling your catch in the correct way is extremely important. Too many anglers forget about this important step. After an early rise and fishing in the sun all day, cleaning your catch can seem quite daunting. Here are a few tips to make it easier.

  • Use a clean, flat working area
  • Have warm soapy water to wash your hands
  • Have a hose close by to spray your surface off regularly
  • Use a sharp filleting knife and sharpen regularly
  • Have a brine solution ready to store fish that has been filleted
  • Once you are finished, remove filleted fish from your brine solution, cover and refrigerate

How to Fillet California Halibut

The California halibut is one of the easiest fish to clean. A few quick cuts and the delicious fillets will be ready for the fridge or skillet.

  • First, make a cut along the upper shoulder, and cut down towards the lateral line
  • Cut all the way along the lateral line to the tail. This will put the knife directly on the spine
  • With your knife at a slight angle, cut along the rib cage towards the upper shoulder
  • Cut from the upper shoulder down towards the tail. Once this cut is completed, you will be able to remove the first upper fillet

Now onto the bottom fillet, you really want to avoid the stomach region of the Halibut, because it spends a substantial amount of time in the sand, it is possible to find worms in this area.

  • Make a cut from the lateral line (avoiding the intestines) down towards the anal fin
  • Just like the upper fillet, work your knife at an angle and cut along the rib cage towards the tail
  • Your first lower fillet is now ready
  • Turn the fish over and repeat

The California Halibut has extremely tough skin and, with a sharp knife, can be removed easily.

  • With the fillet lying skin down, make a small incision between meat and skin
  • Apply some pressure from the top with your non-cutting hand
  • Slice the meat off the skin with firm horizontal cuts

How to Prepare California Halibut

This recipe is one of my family’s favorite, delicious Halibut on a bed of garlic-infused mash potatoes served alongside a fresh salad and warm, crusty bread.

This recipe only takes 25 minutes to prepare and will make four servings:


  • 4 x California halibut fillets
  • 2 x teaspoon salt
  • 2 x tablespoon butter
  • 2 x teaspoons pepper
  • 1 x tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 x tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 x teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 x teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder


  • Combine salt, pepper, onion powder, thyme, cayenne pepper, paprika oregano, and garlic powder into a large, shallow bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Add your fillets two at a time and coat both sides thoroughly
  • Cook your fillets in a large cast-iron over medium heat for about three to four minutes on each side. The fish will flake easily when done.

Nutritional Facts

Each fillet of California halibut will offer you:

  • 24g protein
  • 189 calories
  • 3g carbohydrate (1g fiber and 1g sugars)
  • 758g sodium
  • 51mg cholesterol
  • 8g fat (4g saturated fat)
  • Diabetic Exchanges: 3 x lean meat and 1 x fat)

Is California Halibut Safe to Eat?

California Halibut is safe to eat, but it’s recommended that people should eat Halibut under the size of ten pounds less frequently. This is due to high mercury levels at this age of their lives.

How Do You Catch California Halibut From Shore?

When surf fishing for California halibut, you should try grunion, smelt, anchovy, or sardines (live, frozen, or unfrozen). Another popular bait is strip muscle lip; it’s a natural bait for Halibut and works best when threaded on your hook like a worm. Use a Carolina rig with either a conventional or saltwater spinning outfit.

Insert the hook through the top and bottom lips of your bait to ensure that it swims with realistic action.

Cast the bait past the surf line and pull across the bottom region using a slow retrieval, look for any type of structure. Olive green and lime with white colors have always worked well.

Using natural baits requires a much slower retrieval. Try the stop and start retrieval to give the lazy Halibut some time to catch up.

How Many Halibut Can You Keep in California?

The topic of daily catch limits is extremely important to me, and I encourage all anglers to adhere to these regulations.

The minimum size limit for a California Halibut is 22 inches (total length). The bag limit is five fish, the daily bag and possession of South of Point Sur, Monterey County.

North of Point Sur, Monterey County, the bag limit is three fish.

How to Catch Halibut Off a Pier

There are some interesting techniques to try and catch California Halibut from a pier. If the pier is crowded, you can cast your bait out and slowly retrieve it – you can also apply the stop-start action and change it up a little. We recommend using a large pier fishing rod.

This technique is similar to fishing a deep diving lure or jig head. Another technique you can try is to “troll” or “drag” for California Halibut. This can only be attempted when the pier is quiet. Put a long-shanked hook into a headless bait, and slowly walk up and down the pier dragging your line behind you. This might seem strange to some, but it is extremely effective.

Halibut will eat cut bait but just remember to keep it moving. Try sardine, mackerel, anchovies, and squid. Don’t panic if you can’t get bait. You can catch Halibut using artificial lures from the pier. There are numerous types you can try, from crankbaits, soft plastics to shiny spoons like Crocodiles.

The most popular lure to catch California halibut is the Lucky Craft Lure, they come at a premium price, but they are the real deal.

Fishing with lures high above the water is less effective when compared to rock and surf fishing. Halibut are notorious for smashing the lure just below the surface, so when doing your retrieval, take your time and pay attention to the last three feet of water.

Identifying California Halibut

California halibut have a large square-shaped mouth, almost square. They are equipped with large sharp teeth and a large arch in the lateral line situated above the pectoral fin.

California halibut are a dark muddy brown color on the top side, and a white or sometimes a yellowish on the bottom (blindside). There is often splotching with white spots on the top side, especially in the juveniles.

What is the Difference Between California Halibut and Pacific Halibut?

There are a few differences between the California halibut and the Pacific Halibut:

  • You could find the eyes on a California on the left or the right-hand side of the head. The eyes of a Pacific halibut are always on the right-hand side of its head.
  • The California Halibut has less than 77 dorsal soft rays, while the pacific has more than 80
  • Another distinctive feature is the mouth of the California Halibut that extends beyond the eye, it’s not the case with the Pacific
  • Pacific halibut are typically known to be deep water fish and are caught off northern California.

Whether you aim for California or Pacific Halibut, the way it tastes all depends on how you prepare it. The Halibut is a mild-tasting fish and is best when eaten freshly caught. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and catch yourself a Halibut. 


We hope you enjoyed this article on what does California Halibut taste like! We think they are one of the most delicious fish you can catch.

Happy Hunting!

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