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Anglers compete in tourney for the halibut

OCEANSIDE — This April a 29-pound catch by Benny Ford, aboard Fish Nut, won the annual Oceanside Anglers Club Halibut Tournament. “Twenty-nine pounds is big halibut for around here,” Ken Corwin, tournament director and owner of Ken’s Custom Reels, said. “The California halibut state record is 50-some pounds.”

Two years ago an angler caught a 38-pound halibut to take home the top prize purse.

Benny Ford takes home first place with his 29-pound catch in the annual Oceanside Anglers Club Halibut Tournament. Courtesy photo

The Oceanside Anglers Club hosts eight fishing tournaments a year. The Halibut Tournament is the first tournament of the April to October fishing season and the most competitive.

More than 130 anglers competed in the open tournament. Other club tournaments are restricted to club members.

Fourteen women entered the tournament. Tami Whitney, aboard Bath Toy, reeled in the second biggest catch. She was awarded a cash prize and additional money by also winning the Fish Lady side pot, which is given to the woman with the biggest catch.

Prize money is raised though collecting tournament entry and boat fees. All money collected is given to tournament winners.

“The more people that fish, the more money there is to win,” Corwin said.

Rules for the tournament were lines in no sooner than 6 a.m. and final weigh-ins no later than 5 p.m. at the dock-certified scale.

“They try their luck wherever they think they have the best spot,” Corwin said. “There are traditional spots that hold halibut.”

One good spot is the ocean waters off La Costa Avenue.

Fish and Game preservation restrictions do not allow anglers to fish the coastline between Moonlight Beach and Solana Beach.

To find halibut, anglers drift a feeder line along the ocean floor until they get a bite. Fish meters cannot detect halibut, so finding them comes from knowing the spots they frequent.

“Some guys are really good at it,” Corwin said. “To figure it out it takes time.”

Tami Whitney takes second place in the club's halibut tournament. Courtesy photo

When asked if luck plays a role, Corwin said luck is always involved.

Ten fish were weighed, but Corwin said there is no way of knowing how many were caught in all.

Weigh-ins ranged from 12 pounds to the prize winning 29-pound catch.

The club will host monthly fishing tournaments through June that focus on different local fish species.

Corwin said it is determined by what they have the best shot at catching at that time. “There are no tournaments in November through January because there’s nothing to catch,” Corwin said.

The Oceanside Anglers Club meets at the Oceanside Yacht Club the first Tuesday of every month. Ken’s Custom Reels in the harbor is the unofficial clubhouse between meetings for club information and sign ups.

For more information on the Oceanside Anglers, visit