Cabezon love company. Catch one and chances are you will catch more. They weigh an average of 3 to 4 pounds but may weigh as much as 18 pounds living as long as 20 years. Fish for Cabezon on the bottom in the shallow water of the nearshore reefs and in the kelp forest along the rocky shore or the jetties using the same balanced tackle that is used fishing for bass. The transition from bass fishing to Cabezon fishing is just a matter of changing bait.
Cabezon just love crabs. The flavor of their flesh is so sweet it taste like crab. Commercial crabbers often find cabezon trapped in their crab pots. Shore crabs (Hemigrapsus oregonesis and Pachygrapsus crassipes) are common in mussel beds and under the rocks in the tidal zone along the rocky shore or inside of Oregon's bays. Catch and use the largest crabs available as bait for cabezon. Smaller crabs, those about the size of a thumbnail, make excellent bait for greenling and perch.
Cabezon have large mouths and are not at all hook shy. Fish large shore crabs baited to a single size 2/0 hook or to a 3 hook gangion rigged with breakaway components. Bait the shore crab by inserting the hook into the bottom at the rear of the crab pushing the hook up through the back until the point of the hook is clearly exposed. Shrimp in the shell are an effective alternative if crabs are not available. Shrimp are sold in bait and tackle shops and in local markets.
Cabezon are bottom dwellers laying at rest waiting for crabs to come their way. Cast the crab to the desired location allowing the crab to fall to the bottom. Work the crab through the submerged structure back to the boat or the rocky shore. When the Cabezon takes the crab, set the hook with a solid hook set and horse it off of the bottom to keep it from finding refuge in the rocks. Even though cabezon are sedentary they are aggressive feeders and will eagerly take cut bait or 1 to 8 ounce leadhead jigs and hard baits fished on the bottom among the rocky structure. Most cabezon taken in Oregon's coastal waters are taken by anglers fishing from boats using jigs.
The number of cabezon caught by anglers fishing from boats far exceed the number of cabezon caught by anglers fishing from the rocky shore, but the spawning migration of cabezon into shallow water provide anglers fishing from the rocky shore easy access to one of the most highly esteemed food fish the ocean has to offer. Fishing for cabezon using conventional tackle is the most common method used by anglers fishing from the rocky shore but fishing with a poke pole is an effective alternative used to catch cabezon in the rocky structure of very shallow water.
Fish for cabezon in the rocky structure associated with jetties, the rocky shore or large tide pools using a poke pole. A poke pole can be a long bamboo pole 10 to 12 feet in length or a telescoping fiberglass rod. Attached to the pole is a short length of 50 pound test monofilament line and size 2/0 baited with a large shore crab. Poke the crab into a hole, crevice or the deeper water associated with tide pools or rocky structure, when a cabezon takes the bait, set the hook hard yanking the fish out of the hole as quickly as possible.
Not only are cabezon fun to catch but they are also a highly esteemed food fish. Cut through the gillrakers to bleed the fish ensuring fillets of the finest quality. The flesh is bluish in color but cooks up white. Do not eat the roe of cabezon because it is poisonous. Release all cabezon less than 16 inches in length retaining only enough fish to fulfill your immediate needs. Remember conservation is the key that will assure good fishing in the future.
Return to Other Coastal Fish Species.