Guide to Halibut Fishing from Shore and Pier

SF angler

All over California, halibut can be easily caught from public piers and shorelines. This means that anyone has the opportunity to catch big, delicious halibut with minimal experience and gear! This article contains everything you need to know to catch a "doormat" yourself.
24" halibut caught from a pier in San FranciscoSF angler

Locations: California halibut live in sandy and muddy areas, from 1,000 feet deep all the way to the shallowest of inshore waters. Bays, lagoons, and protected beaches are great places to search for halibut, or ask a local tackle shop for well known local hotspots.

Times and tides: Halibut can be found year-round, but the best near-shore fishing is usually from March-September, when warmer water temperatures bring more baitfish inshore.


"Bait n wait": The most common way to catch halibut is to use natural bait and wait for a bite, hence the term "bait n wait". Live bait like anchovies, smelt, sardines, or squid is always best when available. Some tackle stores sell live bait, and baitfish can also be caught with a cast net, drop net, or sabiki rig. Frozen or dead bait will also work when live bait isn't available. Size 2-2/0 octopus hooks are usually used, and match your hook size to the size of your bait. Use heavy enough tackle to handle larger fish like bat rays that may also take interest in your bait. The most important thing to remember is that halibut live on the bottom, so present your bait on the bottom with a carolina rig or high-low rig.
46" halibut caught on a live anchovySF angler

Plugging: Plugging involves casting artificial lures, which is considered by many to be a more fun way of catching halibut. Popular lures include swimbaits and grubs (on jighead or dropshot), spoons, and jerkbaits. Fishing with lures allows you to selectively target halibut, so you can get away with lighter tackle that allows for more comfortable casting. Just like with natural bait, remember to bounce the bottom!
28" halibut caught on a swimbaitSF angler

Good luck!

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