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By Zach Cavanagh

Frank Sahanas of Dana Point caught this 24-pound, 10-ounce halibut on Sunday, Dec. 6, for the top spot on the Halibut Derby leaderboard. Photo: Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching

There’s a new top catch on the Halibut Derby leaderboard, and the cooler water has slowed down the fishing only slightly at Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching.

In his weekly report, Captain Brian Woolley said the Halibut Derby finally got the infusion of quality fish for which the fleet had been waiting. On Sunday, Dec. 6, there were seven legal halibut caught on the drift trip between 7 pounds and the new top catch of 24 pounds.

Frank Sahanas of Dana Point now has the top spot on the leaderboard, ahead by nearly 10 pounds with a 24-pound, 10-ounce catch. Sahanas used a live sardine on a reverse dropper loop to pull in the hearty catch, which is larger than last year’s 22-pound winner. The Halibut Derby, which runs from November through March, now has 10 names on the board with catches ranging from 4 pounds to Sahanas’ 24-pounder.

To enter the Halibut Derby, anglers much go out on a Friday or Sunday drift trip or pay the entry fee on any open half- or three-quarter-day trip. There are cash prizes for the top five catches, and the top 25 anglers are entered into a fish-off for an extra prize.

In the rest of the Dana Wharf fishing action, the cold winter waters have slowed down the fish and their metabolisms, but there are still plenty of catches to be had.

On the three-quarter-day trips, Woolley said that rockfish have been the main target, and the vermilion rockfish have been biting well with the current. There also have been catches of sculpin, whitefish and other rockfish varieties.

On the half-day trips, Woolley said the boats have been “fishing for bites,” as the 57-59-degree water has anglers trying to capitalize on the few opportunities they find. These trips are still catching some sheephead, with success from exotic baits of shrimp, mussels and clams.

Dana Wharf is also offering a special for the month: one free kid’s ticket for any half- or three-quarter-day trip with the purchase of two adult tickets.

For more information on trips and the Halibut Derby, go to

Here are the latest fish counts from Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching:

Dec. 8 – 2 boats, 33 anglers: 24 sculpin, 17 sheephead, 17 vermilion rockfish, 31 rockfish, 14 whitefish, 3 sand bass, 6 calico bass, 11 sanddabs, 1 trigger fish, 45 bass released.

Dec. 7 – 2 boats, 25 anglers: 65 sculpin, 31 sheephead, 15 vermilion rockfish, 10 whitefish, 5 sand bass, 1 calico bass, 32 bass released.

Dec. 6 – 4 boats, 69 anglers: 40 whitefish, 35 rockfish, 20 vermilion rockfish 11 sculpin, 9 bocaccio, 7 halibut, 4 sand bass, 2 sheephead, 2 sand bass.

Dec. 5 – 2 boats, 45 anglers: 85 vermilion rockfish, 82 rockfish, 24 bocaccio, 15 sculpin, 14 whitefish, 7 sheephead, 3 blue perch, 2 sand bass, 10 bass released.

Dec. 4 – 1 boat, 12 anglers: 1 sand bass, 1 sculpin

Dec. 3 – 3 boats, 28 anglers: 25 sanddabs, 30 rockfish, 24 vermilion rockfish, 32 sculpin, 16 whitefish, 5 sheephead, 1 sand bass, 1 calico bass, 65 bass released.

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