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Huntington Flats

by: George Van Zant
The Huntington flats is notorious for itsı variety of fish catches. Mainly because of the appealing stretches of hard sand bottom, shelves of flat shale, oil-drilling platforms, a sunken airplane, shipwrecks, kelp beds, a rock covered pipeline and artificial reefs.

These fish gathering habitats are located from the Santa Ana River mouth to Bolsa Chica beach a distance of approximately 10 miles.

Sportboats from Newport Beach more often fish the easterly areas and the shallow rock areas in front of the Huntington Beach cliffs. Long Beach Sportboats fish mostly the Bolsa Chica artificial reef commonly known as" Izors Reef" named for the old time skipper that was instrumental in the development of this highly productive marine habitat.
When the summer sand bass bite is full on, boats from as far west as Redondo Beach, south from Oceanside and Dana Point frequent the entire area. Sportboats can be found most anywhere around the flats following the large sand bass schools. During the summer sand bass spawn there are so many boats in the area some skippers claim you need a parking ticket to fish.

You can separate the Huntington Flats into three different areas for angling applications. First by traveling south from the oilrigs about a mile the water becomes 100 feet deep. This area is the southern perimeter of the flats. By using your depth finder you can find schools of fish in various locations over the hard sand bottom. Run your boat in metering runs parallel to the shore progressing to water 120 feet deep. When you locate a fish school, drop heavy jigs down to them. Mostly these are schools of sand bass or shallow water rock cod and they usually gobble the jig before it reaches the bottom. Use 20 LB line or heavier and the popular 6 or 8 ounce Diamond jig. If they donıt cooperate they probably arenıt bass but are a school of prolific whitefish. For these tasty fish use extremely small hooks and one inch square pieces of cut squid. Use two number six 9174 Mustad sproat hooks. The hooks have to be heavy because whitefish fight like crazy but their mouths are tiny. A five pound whitefishısı mouth is about 3/4" in diameter and thin wire hooks will easily tear out.
If you happen across hard shale bottom anchor the boat over it and fish the bottom with any method you wish. To many fish these hard spots are like oases in the middle of a sand desert. Giant sheephead and all the rock dwellers will jump on your hooks with reckless abandon. The second area to fish is the hard shale area just south of the drilling platforms. The area is about a 1/2-mile square area in 60 feet of water. Drift this spot with sinkers heavy enough to maintain bottom contact at all times. Use long leaders of 15-pound line or less. Or drag lead head jigs sporting rubber tails that have cut squid, mackerel, tomcod or jack smelt tipped on the hook. Live anchovies or brown bait pinned to a number 2 to 4 hooks also work very well for a variety of fish. Patiently drift and fish until the bottom turns to sand. If you get on the shale correctly sometimes the drift will last for over 200 yards. This particular spot is popular for large halibut but many different kinds of fish will attack your bait. It is also famous for white sea bass and the protected black sea bass. This area is the spot from which came the name "Huntington Flats". The basic rule is to always have your boat over the shale area.
The third spot is the vast area of shallow bottom rock area off the shoreline cliffs. The rock-strewn bottom starts just behind the breaker line and extends out into 40 feet of water where it abruptly ends. The sportboat skippers have many favorite spots in these shallow areas and tend to fish only these selective spots. Small boaters can maneuver around all over the area and find great fishing for especially calico bass and halibut. Itıs really easy because every rock has a potential halibut living in the sand around it or a sand bass or sheephead lurking near. The only problem is what kind of tackle to use around the razor sharp rocks. All bass when hooked will immediately wrap around a rock so heavy tackle is required to stop them in their tracks. On the other hand halibut will not bite bait attached to heavy line. You should be ready for both situations by having the appropriate tackle ready for both. The large calicos are best caught on light metal jigs like Salas, UFO, Tady, and Fish Traps. Next best for bigger fish is the traditional lead head rubber tailed jigs tipped with a piece of fish. Bring lots of them. You have to work the jig slowly in contact with the rocks and most of them become history. Live anchovies flylined will produce many, many small calicos but remember they have to be 12 inches long and most of them arenıt. Ten-pound test line is as small as you can use for successful halibut techniques. Sure, you can use heavier but light lines work twice as good for every pound test down the scale. Live bait works best for the butts, the larger the better for big ones.
Small boat anglers can find the closest launch ramps in Newport Beach, Huntington Harbor or Long Beach. The Huntington Harbor launch ramp in Sunset Aquatic Park is closer to much of the Flats than Newport Beach but from Newport you can reach the pipeline and one of the artificial reefs at the Santa Ana river much faster. The Alamitos Bay launch ramp in Long Beach is about one mile further than the Aquatic Park ramp.

Added: Fri Sep 05 2008
Last Modified: Fri May 15 2009

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