When to Catch California Halibut – Season Guide

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Fishing for California halibut fishing seasons has on and off days despite the fish being available all year-round in any season dates.

california halibut fishing seasons
Seasons in the sand with the flatties. Source: Ed Bierman

Most anglers would agree that the most challenging part of fishing Paralichthys californicus, also known as the California halibut, is looking for them.

What adds to the stress is that halibut spots vary throughout the fishing seasons. This recreational groundfish tends to swim away at one season and go back to another. 

California Halibut Fishing Seasons


Contrary to some anglers’ beliefs, halibut fishing in the winter can be an enjoyable experience in SoCal. The simplicity in fishing halibuts during winter compares to no other. You can also target it near Catalina Island during the winter.

All you need are your winter halibut sportfishing gear essential and a good amount of patience. It is also a good note to bounce the bait along the bottom in search of California halibut at 100 ft depths. 


Spring is a very productive season in fishing for halibuts. In this season, halibuts are spread everywhere in the bays. It usually begins in March through June. The biggest halibuts are usually from anglers fishing the Spring period.

It is a good run for catching halibuts along with the Fall season. The water starts to warm in July, and big California halibut starts to leave, searching for a cooler place, leaving the juveniles behind.


When summer comes, there is a rise in water temperatures, making the lunker halibut swim away from the bays to spawn in the open ocean. If you want to catch the California halibut during the summer season, head to the flats off of the Tijuana beaches.


When Fall starts to cool down the warm SoCal waters from the summer, bigger halibuts go back in to prey on fish like bass and smelt. Fall is one of the periods with the best runs on catching California halibut.

You have to note the water temperature when fishing for halibut as they do not like unreasonably warm water. They usually settle in water with a temperature of 60 degrees. Also, keep on the lookout for weed beds where smelts reside. 

Fishing Regulations

Despite being available throughout the year, halibut fishing has its limits. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife posted the limit on this species’ recreational fisheries on their CDFW website.

A SoCal angler has to abide by the daily bag and possession limit of this fish species. You can only fish three fish north of Point Sur and five fish south of Point Sur, Monterey County.

You may also call the regulations hotline (831) 649-2801 ahead of your trip to be aware of all the other rules and information. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is fishing season open in California?

The species is open for anglers all year round between the Mexico border and Santa Barbara County. In Northern California, halibut fishing remains strong through September. This includes both offshore spots and main fishing grounds. Productive fishing for California halibuts may vary throughout the year, but it has no closed season. 

Where can I fish for halibut in California?

California halibut can be found abundantly all along the west coast on any day of the year you decide to catch this fish. If you are in Southern California, fish for this flatfish between April and July.

Insider Advice

California halibut does not hurry in swallowing its dinner as it makes the first pass in killing the baitfish. It usually goes back to its spot at the bottom where it would enjoy its prey. Patience is what every angler needs in fishing for halibut. A slow count to thirty is one rule of thumb when attempting to catch a California halibut.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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