The Halibut Hammer
Every so often I’ll be diving without my gun and I’ll run into a nice halibut. During the day they are sneaky little bastards, I’ve seen them buried up completely with just their mouth exposed or just see part of their tail. Even with a gun the smart ones won’t let me get close, they’ll wait until the last second and then throw sand up in my face and take off. I’ve had several dodge the shaft mid flight, I still don’t know how they do it.
For years I’ve been trying to find halibut but almost never got any. Part of it is because I’m lame, the other is because I have the attention span of a hyperactive four year old. Usually I’d give it a shot for about ten minutes and then go back to hunting the reef. It would be my buddies John and Mike who would show me pity and finally teach me the ropes. Mike would show me exactly where a halibut would be hiding and I’d come back to the surface and tell him “dude I don’t see anything”. He’d go back down and place his gun pointing at the damn thing and I’d go down and look and come back up, “dude I don’t see anything”. Finally he’d poke the bastard and it would take off. This would happen several times before I got the hang of spotting them. I kept working at it and then one day John told me a spot where I would end up spearing my biggest one, a fat 24 pounder.
One FAT halibut!
I kept working at it, every year I’d get a little better and then I’d get a few. This year was epic. I spent a lot of time hunting pv before it closed and found exactly the type of habitat they liked. I spent hours working the sand until I patterned where they would be and almost every trip I’d see a few. I’d go for a few hours after work and nail a couple. The would become one of my favorite fish to hunt, there is nothing like combing over the sand and seeing that scowling face burried.
One of my better days from PV before it closed
At night though it’s a different game. For some unknown reason to me, halibut just aren’t as sketchy at night and I’d see a few when I’m lobster diving, of course every time I’d be without a gun.
One of my buddies suggested I talk to Dean at Vector Marine. Vector Marine is a spearshaft shop in Hawaiian Gardens. I told Dean I wanted a very short hammer, shorter than anything he’s really made. I wanted an 8″ shaft with a double flopper on the end, I figured I’d have a better chance of getting the hammer to stick with two floppers, I’d rather spook fifty fish than chance tearing off one.
The very first time I was out hunting bugs I saw a nice halibut but the surge was so great that I bumped into it as I was hastily reaching for the hammer. The second time out I again saw another one that spooked as I got close. Dammit! But that same night as I was dropping on the sandy reef I saw the outline of a very large halibut sitting on the edge of the swaying surfgrass. I immediately knew it was well over legal, and I carefully unsheathed the hammer. I took another breath of air and dropped down and tried to approach it as carefully as possible, hammer in one hand and light in the other way ahead of the halibut so I wouldn’t spook it. As I got close I reached back and punched forward.
The fish rose off the bottom and started kicking madly around so I reached around and carefully grabbed the bottom of the hammer and kicked towards the surface. Success! I ended up grabbing it by the gills and then used the hammer to brain it (thanks science mike for the write up on braining halis!).
The fish was no giant, maybe 12 pounds or so but I was pretty happy to have it stuffed in my mori bag along with several bugs. It ended up making a great fish and lobster dinner :).
Unfortunately I ended up losing the hammer on one of my other trips, the bungee must have tangled on the kelp that I was kicking through. I ended up making some changes and asked Dean to make me another one, this one with a smaller T and holes drilled on both sides to attach the bungee. The bungee runs in a loop around the bottom of the sheath, the same way I run my dive knife, it also acts like a safety in case I drop the hammer unexpectedly. I used an old scubapro knife sheath and zipped tied a piece of pvc to hold the hammer inside it and painted the entire thing black. Dean also heat treated it so it would remain dark, and I also wrapped the handle with black electric tape because I wanted as little flash as possible and I’m pretty sure this one is going to be perfect.
Unfortunately the swell has been up the last few weeks and I haven’t had time to try it out again. But I’d bet my life that I’ll have a few more halibut fall to the hammer over the next few years 🙂