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Fishermen's Journal


30 Pound Halibut on 8# Line

by Bob Hildago


As we left Dana Harbor you could see signs of ‘life’ all around.  Birds turning and diving, bait on the surface, seadogs cutting in and out.  It just felt like it would be a much better day than the last four trips.  I was with my old Britt bud Roy on his 25-foot ‘Expatriot’ and we had not had very good luck the past four trips.  That may be putting it somewhat optimistically as we had not boated a legal fish in over a month and were a little on the ‘antsy’ side.  You know the feeling.

On advice from the bait dock we fished about 3 miles off San Clemente pier for most of the day in water ranging from 50 to 75 feet picking up the occasional ‘Pop Tart’ (very small halibut) and a short or two.  This trip really looked like the last one and the one before that, you get the picture.  Roy decided it would be best to start trolling the few Sardines we had in the tank to see if we could salvage something for the table.  Roy had been ‘grousing’ about my light lines advising the fish would bite through the 8lb. Ande I was using or the one pound ball would wear the line at the swivel on my double trap rig.

Being the adventurous soul I am I still put the light line out and sat back in the folding chair to wait for a hit.  Nothing.  No, worse than nothing.  We were in 62 feet of water about halfway between San Clemente pier and Dana Point Harbor (we did this for about two hours trolling from the pier and Roy advised lets pull ‘em in and go home).  As I reached for the rod it bent over double, but no drag went out.  At least we had a ‘fish’ of some kind on and I looked at my buddy and said something to the effect, ‘there she goes!’ ‘There she goes!’ trying to pump us up and make the most out of the fish no matter the size.  Not thinking the fish was of any weight, I stilled handled it with the care of someone using light line and a one-pound ball of weight.

About two minutes into the fight I advised Roy it would probably go maybe 10 to 12 pounds at the most when the fish decided to ‘swap ends’ and headed for the horizon!  I lightened the drag further on my Penn International 975 hoping to take some of the pressure off my light line.  What was I thinking! 

I fought this fish for 15 minutes before getting it to color and oh she looked big coming in!  I put a real bend in my Turner California Calico Special C576H and got her to the boat.  A while ago I caught a 44 lb. plus fish on 10 lb. test and this fish looked just as long!  I started to get ‘déjà vu’ when Roy reached down with the gaff and I said to him, ‘don’t miss, you remember what happened last time’, to which he replied something to the effect of, ‘bugger off’.  Well, you can almost predict what happened next.  Roy reaches down with the gaff, slams it into the head (great spot to save damage to filets) and starts to bring it over the side…….wham, wham, wham!  The fish goes nuts and literally jumps off the gaff.

Time stood still as the fish glistened in the sun and crashed into the water taking me under the boat.  I jammed the rod into the water and bbobhidalgo3.jpg (10940 bytes)followed it around.  Did I mention Roy had left his baits in the water (two rods) and all of a sudden we were in a party boat scenario with ‘overs and unders’ and ‘pass the rod this way’ and ‘no the other way’.  I was ready for this to happen (my experience with my partners track record on big fish) and finally got the big Butt to the boat one more time.  Roy reaches down and ‘sticks’ it real good this time and gets it over the side.  High fives all around!

Back at the dock the fish weighed 30 lbs 8 ounces and when we cut her open found she had nothing in her stomach.  One hungry halibut!  We used a double trap rig and a green Sardine, trolling at 1.5 miles an hour using a one pound ball in about 62 feet of water.  I took only two small filets for dinner that night and gave the rest to the boat.

Great to get back in the ‘win’ column!


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Last modified: 06/09/13.