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By Zach Cavanagh

The Halibut Derby enters its final month of competition, with the top five earning cash prizes and the top 25 earning spots in a fish-off in April. Photo: Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching

The Halibut Derby enters its final month, and seasonal catch restrictions have been lifted at Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching.

In his weekly report, Captain Brian Woolley said that the Dana Wharf fleet “rode the sculpin out to the very end” during the winter closure season that ended on Sunday, March 1. From Jan. 1 through Feb. 29, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife closes off catches of sheephead, whitefish, lingcod and rockfish to boat-based anglers.

Dana Wharf hit the sculpin up to the limits over that winter season, including a strong final day on Saturday, Feb. 29. When the restrictions opened on Sunday, Woolley said they had boats head out to hit the rockfish opening day, and the boats did well on rockfish and sheephead before the weather forced the boats to return to port.

For anglers going on those three-quarter-day trips looking to join in on the rockfish and sheephead, Woolley suggested medium to heavy eight-foot rods and a 300-400 size reel with a 40-50 braid. Woolley also said it would be good to bring an assortment of torpedo sinkers and 80-100-gram coltsniper jigs.

On the half-day trips, bass continued to provide good action. There were nice sandbass catches in deeper waters, and the calico bass remained strong in the kelp and along the coast. Woolley said fly-lined sardines, dropper loops and artificial lures all assisted in catches last week.

Woolley said the halibut have shown better over the past few weeks, and that’s good as the annual Halibut Derby hits the homestretch.

The new leader on the derby board is Cher Owens with a 22-pound, five-ounce catch. That topped the previous leader and now second-place catch of Omar Ozgur at 20 pounds, five ounces. There are six fish north of 15 pounds on the board, but only 22 of the 25 spots on the leaderboard have been filled.

The top five placers will receive a cash prize starting at $1,500 for first place, and the top 25 anglers will earn a spot in the free Halibut Derby Fish-Off on April 5, which also comes with a $500 cash prize for the winner.

For more information on the Halibut Derby, halibut drift trips and more fishing trips, check out

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

March 4 – 2 boats, 28 anglers: 75 vermilion rockfish, 45 whitefish, 35 rock fish, 35 bocaccio, 21 sheephead, 7 calico bass, 2 sculpin, 1 sand bass, 90 bass released.

March 3 – 4 boats, 72 anglers: 127 bocaccio, 105 whitefish, 90 vermilion rockfish, 88 rockfish, 14 sheephead, 11 sculpin, 5 calico bass, 1 sand bass, 96 bass released.

March 2 – 2 boats, 41 anglers: 149 vermilion rockfish, 83 whitefish, 57 rockfish, 30 bocaccio, 21 sculpin, 4 sheephead.

March 1 – 3 boats, 67 anglers: 89 whitefish, 55 vermilion rockfish, 20 rockfish, 7 sheephead, 7 calico bass, 3 sculpin, 1 halibut, 1 treefish, 5 bass released.

Feb. 29 – 5 boats, 115 anglers: 109 sculpin, 34 sanddab, 9 sand bass, 8 calico bass, 3 blue perch, 142 bass released.

Feb. 28 – 3 boats, 47 anglers: 2 calico bass, 2 sand bass, 1 sculpin, 1 halibut, 81 bass released.


Zach Cavanagh
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at

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