I’ve been diving heavily in the central Cal area since ‘86 with thousands of dives at Port San Luis, Tajiguas (near Refugio) and at Refugio beach. Hunting halibut has always been my “specialty” and I have been very successful at always finding the fish. Until the last few years, starting about four to five years ago, I could pretty much take my pick of fish, but now, I don’t see any halibut… no legals… no shorts… no sand impressions… and hardly any babies.
As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen (or much of) any of the shallow sea life I used to, the big spider crabs… ling cod… an occasional young sheep head… garibaldi… even rockfish. I’ve seen statistics showing halibut may have some sort of 20-year cycle, but to go from seeing 20 or so halibut a dive, to nothing in years, is frustrating and suspicious. I just read on a government site there is an official designated “California halibut trawl ground” between Point Mugu, and Point Conception, only one mile off the coast.
Do you suppose the netting is the cause, or is there some sort of natural play at work?
Whether you put this out for print or not is no matter, but I would sure appreciate your input one way or another on this perplexing situation, as I am getting tired of paying $6.00 a fill, gas at $4.79, and cleaning gear, just to stare at the empty ocean bottom for an hour at a time (not that you could fix it, but understanding would help).
Ron England (flatfish)
Santa Maria, CA
In my 34 years of diving I have seen halibut populations cycle up and down, along with other fish populations.
Very good reading on the life cycles and movements of the California halibut can be found in Milton Love’s book, Probably More Than You Want To Know About The Fishes Of The Pacific Coast. He makes the point that populations of this fish move around and spawning patterns and locations can vary considerably.
I am more concerned about your statement that other marine life is also lacking. Have any other readers observed this in these same areas?