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Thread: theories on halibut movement in shallow waters

  1. #1
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    Default theories on halibut movement in shallow waters

    ...Because I didn't want to loose my mind yesterday. (it was windy and I couldn't surfcast)... I started to wonder. I managed to come up with a few stupid questions to say the least - feel free to add in questions of your own... maybe I'll start a debate about halibut surfcasting opinions eh?

    1: The tide was very far out at the river mouth, and waves were rolling in as far as the eye could see. I imagine the halibut wouldn't be anywhere near those waves... but where do they go? Just how far do they travel? When do they come back to the river mouth to feed? Do they come back immediately to eat the beat up fish/crab/shrimp that were caught in the storm or stay out in deep waters for a while? Where do they hold, are they active? I don't know much about halibut movement, but know they travel very far off the shelf to spawn. How much ground are we talking about that these little burgers can cover?

    2: Dealing with the best times to surfcast... I've heard mainly 1 hr before high tide, and 2 hrs after. However, I've gotten halibut 2-3 hrs before high tide. I've also noticed fishing is better in smooth water just before a large storm comes in. I was thinking about trying later this evening... it's raining but I've caught many sharks in that weather (usually when windy). Why not flounder or some chickens? In addition, I've never caught halibut surfcasting randomly, all the sudden there is a wave of them, just like stripping for reds. BAM. You start seeing others' rod tips moving. Is this because they're running along the shoreline of the ocean and then get to your location? I know trout do the same thing if your'e icefishing. They cruise the shorelines.

    3: Depths and channels: Well this is a mixed bag. Everyone seems to crowd at the river mouths in the channels... but why? People catch them at clam gulch, whiskey gulch and such. I don't understand the point of battling for a spot before high tide at the river mouths. To me when they move in they move in, and as long as you're bait isn't stuck in the mud flats I'd think they would find it. However, with all the people in one area, I guess you can tell if they are there or not, and it makes a bigger variety of scent trail in the ocean/channel.

    Well that about sums it up. I'm hoping this will bring up some interesting opinions and ideas... and also hope it will help us all maybe figure these little mastermind chickens out. Sorry it's kind of all jumbled up... I can't make any sense of it all and have so many thoughts.
    tightlines,
    AKFishfight

  2. #2
    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Good questions, which I've wondered about myself. I'll be watching to see the replies :-)

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    Member BRWHUNTER's Avatar
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    I can try to add some experiential data to the discussion.

    1. Rarely do we catch halibut in heavy wave days whether or not we are past the breakers but part of that may be misinterpreting hits for normal rod movement or simply the fact that we don't fish heavy weather much anymore.

    2. More than 2/3rds of the halibut we catch are caught a half hour before high tide and up to an hour after. Regardless of the timing of the first hit we are multiples more likely to catch another halibut in the following half to full hour. As if they came in in a school.

    3. With regards depth I've caught halibut in as little as 2-3 ft of water 4 hours after high tide but that is a rarity. We normally fish near a river mouth but no longer fish in the mouth as the peripherals produce slightly better and we do not have to deal with the amplified current when the tide changes from high tide. I too have not caught a fish in a non river based location but the Kenai and kasilof are located near my home so I focus there.

    Good questions hope others chime in

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    Member cod's Avatar
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    After spending many days on the beach over several yrs, my take...
    Clearly, calmer days are better fishing days. Rough water trashes your baits and the bottom is stirred up immensely with the breaking surf. I know this cuz one can feel it on the bait, line, and sinker. No fish likes to be battered against the bottom of the sea. Especially, I suppose a flatfish. (Perhaps this is WHY we tend to catch more sharks when the surf is a bit rough as compared to flatties.
    As to WHY the flatties come to the beach when/where they do....
    the upper stretch of beach has a much more definitive SLOPE to it than the lower section of beach. The "flats", as they are referred to, are just that. Flat! So what the butts are keying on are... When will the water be deep enough? When will the water action be calm enough? When will the (bait/ baitfish/food) be obtainable in the shallows. Consequently, when looking for a 'good' spot to throw from the beach, look at the beach at 'low' tide and find a stretch with a more PRONOUNCED upper beach drop. Basically, the 'flats' all start along a beach at the same pt. (about plus 2 ft elevation in my area).
    If u are a fish, u are looking for a steeper bank to swim up AGAINST. Much like fish in a river love tucking up against a steep bank. It provides the security for quick escape to deeper water. A good place to drop your bait is right at the transition of the 'flat' and the 'rise' of the beach. I believe the fish use that transition of soils/gradients as a guiding post to travel. Again, much like fish in a stream sitting in a 'seam' sipping midges, etc.
    I don't fish river mouths per say, but I would suppose that both current flow and additional food sources from, and into, the river would be an addition atractant to halibut. And I wouldn't discount the scents that are put out by the multiples of fisherman's baits being put out playing a helping role of encouraging activity.
    The OP may be echoing some of my previous posts which encourage one hr before hi tide to 1.5-2 hrs after hi slack. (About 3 to 4 hrs good fishing time). Most of my catching is done about a half hr to an hr AFTER hi slack. But not always.
    An eighteen ft tide is just about right. It comes in high enough to allow the fish the safety they need, depth wise. Also the current on an eighteen is not so strong that it sweeps your bait away one hr prior to high tide. Likewise, the outgoing tide on the 18 is moderate. Now, don't get me wrong. A twenty or even bigger is certainly fishable. Just the window of opportunity is shorter. (Due to current rip).
    so where do those fish go after leaving the beach front? They just slide a bit out farther to nice comfortable depths. Like any foraging animal, least effort/maximum food source acquisition.
    And yes, halibut will travel in schools like many fishes do.
    All this, brought to u by..... Wait for it......."cod"!
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    I have often noticed that fish enter a feeding frenzie during the calm before a storm. This is trout, walleye, northern pike, halibut, rockfish that I have fished.

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    That this makes a lot of sense. My son had a little silver rod with some hooligan once and casted out not too far. We sat in the truck and had given up, and packed up the poles. Then he goes to reel his in and says there is a bunch of seaweed or something. He gets it to shore and it's a halibut, not bad size either. Then comes the whoops and yells about how in the world he had it on and didn't know it. The pole was in the sun, so we must not have seen the strike, but the fish was still there the whole time. didn't even fight much. really strange, but swallowed the hook down so far had to cut the line.

    I think he was just about where you're talking about...Where the rise meets the flat, and he didn't cast that far. I had my big surfcaster so was a lot farther than that.

    Another thing to bring up: I had braided leader (maybe 6-7ft long) and a large chunk of salmon skin that was around 7 inches long, I wanted it to flash around. It had some fins on it to... But my son had maybe a 2 ft 50lb mono leader on with a small chunk of hooligan. I don't like using small bait because of the flounder, but maybe it's better to use small bait? I use a long leader so they don't feel the tension. What do you think about leader lengths? Also, mono or braided leader? Reel in slack or not? I normally leave out slack, but I see others keeping tight lines. Sliders or no? My son had a slider... but I don't like them because they break off when casting and I loose my sinker. Perhaps with a smaller rod and not so far out they don't break.

    Quote Originally Posted by cod View Post
    the upper stretch of beach has a much more definitive SLOPE to it than the lower section of beach. The "flats", as they are referred to, are just that. Flat! So what the butts are keying on are... When will the water be deep enough? When will the water action be calm enough? When will the (bait/ baitfish/food) be obtainable in the shallows. Consequently, when looking for a 'good' spot to throw from the beach, look at the beach at 'low' tide and find a stretch with a more PRONOUNCED upper beach drop. Basically, the 'flats' all start along a beach at the same pt. (about plus 2 ft elevation in my area).

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