While both fish are bottom dwellers, their habitat is mutually exclusive. Halibut like sandy bottoms and Lings like rocky structure. Under the best of circumstances you’ll find halibut in sandy flats surrounded by rocky structure but for fishing sake it’s usually one type of fish or the other.
   For Halibut, you’ll fish in 100 ft of water or less. Bouncing a lure (Jig, Crocodile, Worm King) on the sandy bottom will work, but live bait fished on the drift (dragging bottom) on a dropper loop above a heavy lead (on a party boat you pretty much want to be straight up & down) works great. Halibut feel like you are pulling up a piece of carpet, do it slow and easy and they’ll remain catatonic until the gaff.


   Use a balanced Rod and reel. A rod should have a good bend and be parabolic. Spool up with fresh line regularly and use 10-12-15 pound test line. 15 pound line maximum. Keep in mind that Halibut have good eyesight and are line shy. As the diameter of the line goes up the likelihood of getting a bite goes down. Also don’t use the “High Vis” lines out. Pick a low in the water option like dark green, blue or brown. Highly recommend Ande Premium Green.
   The most important thing on the reel is the drags. Pick a good size real as the drags have more area than a smaller one. Make sure that they are working smoothly! A rod tip should not jerk as line is pulled off the reel. The rod length does not matter as you are not casting. Just drop the bait to the bottom.


   Use an egg sinker above the swivel and then add up to 18 to 24 inches of leader. Using just enough weight based on depth and drift to hold the bottom. Shorten the leader if drifting fast or deep. Stock up on the 1/8 to 2 oz. egg sinkers. Use your regular line for the leader. Don’t use spectra as you want the stretch in the line. The knot to use is the Trileen knot or the Palomar Tides.
   Here’s the big key factor ~ The fish are biting best on the incoming tide or just after a high tide. That is if there is a good swing, ie; Before a full moon. The fish will not be as active if the tide change is minimal.


   When Halibut fishing let the line slide thru the sinker when a halibut picks up your bait. Let the line go out with “no resistance.” Or as little as possible. Do not “set the hook” with a big swing. Let the hook do it’s job. But do make sure it is very sharp as halibut do have bony mouth. Use fine wire hooks. A good brand is the Eagle Claw L118. A treble hook works ok in smaller baits ~~~ but they pick up snags and no fish will hit a bait with a string of grass hanging from it, except for the odd white shark, however there hasn’t been too many in the area lately ~ don’t worry.


Four levels of desirability ~  From most favorable to least favorable are…
  1. Live Squid
  2. Herring / Queenfish / Sardines
  3. Mackerel (clip the tail to slow it down)
  4. Anchovy
   But the biggest Halibut will suck down the lowliest little Sardine if your bait is presented to him and he is active. Hook the bait sideways across the eyes is the best but if in a fast drift hook your bait up through the mouth.


   Surprisingly few people do this. But trolling with a down rigger is deadly. Troll a 8 lb down rigger and then a looong way back troll a deep diving big lip lure in gold or silver. The Big front lip will give it plenty of action and the gold lure will look like a Queenfish. You need to go thru the areas first to meter for any type of kelp beds,. The area needs to be clear of any eel grass etc., along with a nice sandy bottom.

Secret Weapon:

   Using a clear with heavy gold flake Scampi ~ then cut most the body off. Then, using a Herring or Queenfish, pin it up thru the bottom lip. The tails of the scampi will flutter next to the pectoral fins of the fish. This bait/lure combo will be deadly when dragged along the bottom ~~ Remember, don’t set the hook hard. Just put it in gear and keep firm tension all the way to the boat.

Legal sizes:

Halibut – 22 inches Lingcod – 24 inches Rockfish
   Lingcod are best caught in rocky zones by bouncing (expect to get snagged) a jig (sweeten it with squid or octopus) on the rocks. Unlike rock fish, lings have no bladder, so they’ll fight all the way up. A hit will feel like a hard thump. Pull up and wind them up off the bottom or they’ll rock you. The fight will be like a tug of war. Big baits catch big lings so don’t be shy. Send down one of those mini-rock fish as bait with a big hook (& big lead).
   You must fish from the windward side or your line will go under the boat. You need weight enough to stay straight up and down so you can feel the bottom as the lead hits rocks. Feeding line out at an angle will loose you everything. Fishing the stern involves a leeward to windward dance of sorts: cast downwind and let the jig get to the bottom. Your line should hang vertically in front of you. Walk down from one corner to the other as the boat drifts, keep that jig vertical and work it up and down hitting the rocks. When you run out of stern, reel up and start over. Good Luck!

Pacific Halibut

   This fish is recognized by its elongate, slender, compressed body. The mouth is large and has well developed teeth on both sides of the jaws. The halibut is dark brown on its eyed side and irregularly blotched with a lighter white on its blind side. The maximum length of the male is 4 feet 7 inches; the female, 8 ft 9 in.

Rockcod, Snappers, Canaries, Greenies, Rock Salmon, Rockfish

   This species is distinguished by its heavy, stout build. They have a large, broad head usually bearing spines and strong ridges. General coloring ranges from black to dull green through brilliant orange and crimson. Some have red or black vertical stripes. Their usual length is from 35-50 cm.
   BIOLOGY -   The Rockcod releases its larvae between January and May. They feed on a variety of foods including Herring, Sand Lance, Crabs, Shrimps and Euphausiids. Several of this species has been recorded as older than 70 years.


   One of the most notable features of this fish is its great, gaping mouth with a projecting lower jaw and numerous sharp teeth. The largest individual on record is 152 cm in length and weighing 36.3 kg. The coloring is typically bold, mottled colors in shades of brown, grey or green. Lingcods generally prefer to inhabit rocky areas or the edge of underwater reefs. The flesh is quite tasty and turns white when cooked.
   Some of the most popular lures used are Scampis: split tail plastic grubs with lead heads typically weighing two, four or six ounces. Preferred colors include rootbeer, motor oil, white and purple. Diehard casters also use all kinds of different varieties of iron.
   Diamond bars, Hopkins, Pt. Wilson anchovies, Salas bars all have their moment. If you’re not convinced about trying shallow water light tackle rockfishing yet, this should do it: Check out the quantity and quality of fish possible. The rockfish limit, which is made up of dozens of species, is 15 fish per angler per day. However, there is an overall bag limit of 20 fish per angler per day.
   Critters such as Lingcod, Cabezon, Halibut and Greenling are counted separately from Rockfish. There’s also the chance of hooking into some good size Halibut (6 pounders), and “Barndoor” 30 lb. Halibut!
Questions? Please feel free to contact us by clicking on the San Diego Fishing logo.