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Best Rigs for California Halibut: Halibut Heaven

While most fishermen think of pacific halibut when we talk about halibut fishing, there’s a smaller cousin that’s just as much (if not more) fun to catch: the California halibut. California halibut don’t grow as large as pacific halibut, but live in much larger numbers and are easy to catch off the coast of California. They’re also delicious tasting! So what are the best rigs for California halibut? Turns out, there are several rigs that work great for California halibut. 

In this article, we’ll go over how to make the top 3 best California halibut rigs as well as which are best for different fishing situations. We’ll also talk about the best tackle to use when fishing for California halibut, as well as where halibut like to hang out. Let’s dive in!

In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…

How Do You Rig for Halibut in California?

Depending on where you plan on fishing for California halibut, there are several different rigs that make sense. The most flexible way to fish for California halibut is to use a bottom fishing setup and a sinker slider rig. Sinker slider rigs are great for both live and dead bait. If you would rather keep it simple and fish dead bait, we recommend using a modified Carolina rig. Lastly, if you are fishing from shore you should use a standard fish finder rig. Let’s get into how to make each option.

Sinker Slider California Halibut Rig

The sinker slider rig is our favorite rig for California halibut as it gives you the flexibility of fishing both live and dead bait effectively. The slider allows live bait to swim freely and gives the halibut time to eat the bait before feeling the line. You’ll need a 4 oz torpedo sinker, a 25 lb monofilament leader, a sinker slider, a fishing bead, a barrel snap swivel, and a 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook.

4 oz Torpedo Sinker

Steps to Make the Rig

  1. Cut a 24 to 36 inch 25 lb test fluorocarbon or monofilament leader and tie your circle hook to one side and a snap swivel to the other.
  2. Next, slide your sinker slider onto your fishing line and clip your torpedo sinker to it.
  3. Then, thread your plastic bead on after the sinker slider.
  4. Tie the open snap swivel side of your leader to your main-line. 
  5. That’s it! Add your favorite halibut bait and you’re good to go.

Carolina Rig for California Halibut

The Carolina halibut rig is a great choice if you’re bottom fishing from a boat with dead bait and you want to use a simpler rig. The Carolina rig gives you more sensitivity to feeling a halibut bite and is a better choice when fishing near rocks or other underwater covers. You’ll need a 25 lb test fluorocarbon leader, a 3 oz egg sinker, 1 barrel swivel, a plastic fishing bead, and a size 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook. 

Steps to Make the Rig

  1. First, slide the egg sinker onto your main fishing line. After that slide your fishing bead on. The fishing bead will help prevent the knot you’re about tie next from wearing out and will also produce sound underwater that will pique the curiosity of a hungry halibut.
  2. Next tie your barrel swivel onto the end of your mainline.
  3. Then cut a 24-inch leader off of your 25 lb test fluorocarbon line and tie to the other side of the barrel swivel.
  4. Lastly, tie your 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook onto the end of your leader. Add your favorite halibut bait and you are ready to rock and roll!

Fish Finder Rig for California Halibut

Lastly, we wanted to cover a saltwater fishing classic: the fish finder rig. You can check out a more in detail article about our favorite fishing rig, but here’s a quick start guide on making one for halibut. You’ll need a 4 oz pyramid sinker, monofilament or fluorocarbon leader, a sinker slider, a fishing bead, a barrel snap swivel, and a 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook.

Steps to Make the Rig

  1. Cut a 24 inch 25  lb test fluorocarbon or monofilament leader and tie your circle hook to one side and a snap swivel to the other.
  2. Next, slide your sinker slider onto your fishing line and clip your 4 oz pyramid weight to it.
  3. Thread your plastic bead on after the sinker slider.
  4. Tie the open snap swivel side of your leader to your main-line. 
  5. Hook a piece of octopus or squid onto your circle hook and you’re ready to go!

Best Tackle for California Halibut

Now that you know what the best rigs for California halibut are, let’s go over the best tackle for California halibut. For California halibut fishing from a boat, we prefer using a medium-sized saltwater rod pair with a medium-sized bottom fishing reel. This setup works well for the Carolina rig and sinker slider rig.

If you’re fishing for California halibut from shore, we recommend using a medium-sized surf fishing rod paired with a medium to large surf fishing reel. If you’re not sure which to get, check out our surf fishing reel and surf fishing rod buying guides!

Artificial lures like jigs and jigging spoons can also work well for these fish, right along side rigs and bait like cut bait.

Where Do Halibut Like to Hang Out?

Halibut like to hang out near underwater structure like rocks or wrecks as well as in the shallower (10 to 20 feet deep) sand flats inside bays. We’ve seen equal amounts of success fishing near wrecks offshore as we have on rougher days inshore. Halibut you catch offshore tend to be bigger, however, some large California halibut enjoy patrolling the sand flats for an easy meal. Using artificial halibut lures can be a great choice in shallower waters.

An important thing to remember about California halibut is that they prowl for their prey and they are enticed by movement. If you’re fishing dead bait, give it a twitch every now and then to attract halibut to it. We also prefer to drift instead of anchoring in order to maximize the area we fish in. 

California halibut can be caught year-round, but the most prolific months are in the spring and fall. We like fishing for California halibut the most in April and November. These months tend to be rather boring for other species, and the California halibut season will be in full swing.

What is the Difference Between Pacific Halibut and California Halibut?

While California halibut and pacific halibut look fairly similar, the one big difference is their size. California halibut usually only grow to around 25 lbs, while pacific halibut usually grow over 100 lbs when mature. If given the time, they’ll even reach over 500 lbs! Pacific halibut also are rarely caught inshore, while California halibut love hanging out in bays and inlets. 

California halibut are a large-toothed halibut and are only found on the west coast from Washington to the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

It’s quite an unusual fishing, even by halibut standards, as one of the eyes of the fish has to migrate to the correct and optimum position on its head, and this is done ever time as the fish grows from a juvenile to an adult.

Adult California halibut have both eyes on top of their heads, and while other flatfish species are generally either left-eyed or right-eyed, the California halibut has a roughly even number of fish that are either one or the other.

Are California Halibut Good to Eat?

California halibut are the favorite table fare among many anglers, and taste as good as any other halibut/flounder species. The fish has a mild flavor with a smooth texture, and large flaky white meat.

If you have not tried it and live in the regions they are found, be sure to give it a try, and you will likely find out why they are so popular among the anglers who pursue them.

Parting Thoughts

California halibut are a blast to catch, especially if you’re using the proper California halibut rigs. We hope after reading this article, you’re now prepared for your next California halibut fishing adventure. If you do end up catching a halibut, we recommend preparing with one of our grouper recipes. Both the cajun and deep fried recipes will turn a California halibut into a delicious meal. And don’t forget to improve your fishing luck by leaving the bananas at home.

Happy Hunting!


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