Halibut Hunting

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Posted by seahunt on July 15, 2009 at 08:19:41:

In Reply to: The Last Annual Halibut Hunt posted by Chris on July 13, 2009 at 10:58:07:

Wow! Pretty cool trip. Nice pics.
I haven't been a big halibut fan since I left my Zuma and Malibu spots for
school in SC, but it can be fun. You swim around looking at the sand. Actually
there is a lot to see, but if you spend too much time looking a bunch, like I
do,you won't get as many fish. I thought the amazing divers were the ones that
would spend every tank on a two day trip swimming 15 feet above the sand at the
Santa Rosa Flats. They even see a fish once in a while, hidden in the sand.
The question is did the flatty see the diver first. It has to be a good shot
on one of those. Then you have to get ahold of it and pull out the gills before
your spear comes out of the soft flesh. Of course it always seems to be a flat
shot that is really hard to make accurately. You see more fish than you are
going to get.
On the Peace at San Nic, the skipper would stop for the halibut hunters to get
off. Then we would go about a half mile to let off the bug divers that wanted
to swim. Then they would go another half mile and anchor. I went off for bugs
and thought it was a long swim. I wasn't hunting them, but you would see them
in the sand channels. Gosh that was beautiful diving.
Some of those trips were Sea Sons charters.
The most interesting halibut hunting I heard about was the diving in the mouth
of Tomales Bay. Can we say radical conditions and very sharky?
The biggest one I ever saw was on a cold grey Thanksgiving day off of Leo
Carillo. It was a screwup dive, but I was still allowed to do those when I was
17. Besides, mostly it was Johnney. In and out of the water with different
floatation, then none, then gear and then I don't know what Johnney was doing.
Finally we were in. It was OK vis in a nice kelp bed He had a paralyzer on a
pole. I had an iron clipped on, but we were supposed to be looking for bugs.
20 feet down, 10 feet away, serious gloom, there is a very very large flatty.
Johnney was afraid to shoot it. I'da done it and held on for dear life. I dunno
if I'da got it, I think it was over 40 pounds. And me, of course I've got my
iron unclipped and was gonna stab it in the tail, which was what was towards
me. You might have found me amusing at 17. Luckily, before it got there the
fish shook and disappeared with one tail action. It may well have been smarter
than both of us divers combined at that moment. It probably would have bit me.
What was interesting to me was paddling back in on a small surfboard I ended
up with, I was cold. I don't get cold easy, but that long in and out on a cold
day or whatever, I was mind blurring cold. I vaguely remember just getting
inside the kelp when a bull sea lion popped up in front of me. He didn't swim
up, he just popped up in front of me without moving the water a bit. He looked
at me for a bit and went down the same way. I went forward and touched the foam
ring to convince myself that it definately was real.
I've heard divers tell of halibut jumping out of the water while chasing bait
fish near the surface. I have trouble picturing it.
Are things changing? I guess I know that there are fewer hunters. How often do
I get out and how strong do I swim these days? Still, the best hunters were
always the ones that focused on one thing, the game they wanted to get. I
wasn't always one of those. I loved the hunting, but there is no way I can
swim through a kelp forest, rocky reef or even sand flats without looking
around at the beauty and feeling the wonder. Ah, so ya miss a few. No doubt,
California diving is changing, but there still seems to be room for the
hardcore divers that are just drawn to the excitement and challenge of the
hunt. Nothing makes you so enervated and in touch with the water as releasing
your ancient hunting instincts. Still, non-hunting dives can be a lot of fun
and challenge if you like. These days I wanna go to the Anacapa preserve and
shoot every living thing I see onto a 16 Gig memory card.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt

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