The California Halibut is a large-tooth flounder. California Halibut and other fish such as turbot and sole are called flatfish because their bodies are flat and they have both eyes on the upper side, a unique adaptation to life on the seafloor. California Halibut are not born flat, however. Rather, at a few months of age, the young go through a fascinating sequence of changes, taking on the adult form in a process believed to reflect the evolutionary development of the species.
California Halibut are usually uniformly brown to brownish-black on the eyed side, and have the ability to change skin color patterns to camouflage with the substrate. They may have white spots, especially juveniles, which often fade after death. The non-eyed side is usually entirely white, though some mottling may occur. The lateral line is most distinctive and is highly arched above the pectoral fin. The mouth is large with conical teeth. The top jaw bone extends beyond the eye. There are less than 77 soft dorsal rays.
In the Pacific Halibut, the maxilla extends only to the front edge of the eye, whereas the maxilla extends beyond the eye in California Halibut. Pacific Halibut have more than 80 soft dorsal rays and the eyes are always on the right side of the head whereas California Halibut will have less than 77 soft dorsal rays and the eyes may be on the right or left side.
A top level predator that hunts by stealth, it is prized by fishermen as great table fare.
Sport fishers typically use light fishing gear and live baits for this California Halibut. It is sometimes caught from the rocks or near piers. However the most common way to catch them is from a boat with a live bait while drifting across the water. Baits include anchovies, sardine, squid, mackerel, and queenfish. Some anglers use plastic lures and scampitype "lead heads" to fool a California Halibut into striking.
Mostly fishing from boats in the coastal regions, anglers catch good quantities of California Halibut in 10 to 80 feet of water. Sometimes the fish are caught from shore or by kayak fishermen in very shallow water. Slow trolling and drift fishing is the preferred method of bait presentation.
It is native to the waters of the Pacific Coast of North America from the Quillayute River in Washington to Magdalena Bay in Baja California.