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Sand Dab Fishing - How To Catch Sand Dabs - Tips And Techniques For Catching Sand Dabs


Fishing for sand dabs is a great fishing experience.  Sand dabs are a small flounder, similar to a petrale sole or Dover sole.  They resemble a halibut but they are a small flounder that a halibut could eat in one bite.  Knowing how to catch sand dabs will truly add to your ocean fishing fun and sand dabs are excellent for eating.  I think the sand dab fishing tips and techniques in this article on how to catch sand dabs is a good, solid, start towards your sand dab fishing success.  Make sure you check out our rock fishing articles and our surf perch fishing articles here to for more fun on your ocean trip!
Catching sand dabs is done in sandy area off the coast in the oceans.  Sand dabs, like all flat fish, live in the sand and burrow themselves under the sand for protection from predators and to lay in wait for food that comes by.  Their skin is mottled and matches the ocean floor so that when mostly covered with sand they are almost invisible with only their eyes, which protrude out of their heads substantially, visible.  Sand dabs, like all flounders, are an odd looking fish.  They are flat with fins pretty much in the same places as on perch and other fish, except both of their eyes are on one side of their bodies so they are both sticking up out of the sand when they are laying flat on the bottom.  Sand dabs are an interesting flounder to stare at, especially for kids that have never seen one.

Catching sand dabs is done in somewhat deep water, 100 to 300 feet.  Usually in our area in the north coast of California it is about 100 feet.  If you aren’t catching sand dabs at one depth, try another until you find the honey hole depth.  The tackle for catching sand dabs is simple.  Use a reel that is large enough so when you wind it in over and over, it doesn’t take you a life time and with a retrieve ratio so your arm isn’t cramped and worn out half way through the day as there is a lot of reeling in when fishing for sand dabs.  Rigging for sand dabs is a little different than any other type of fishing that I can think of.  What you have on the bottom of your fishing line is basically a weight with a line dangling behind it that has about 7 small hooks on it that are only about six or eight inches apart.  The fishing weight is enough to keep your line down so it drags on the sand and so the line sinks rapidly, as well as so you can have a tight enough line to feel the bumps from the sand dab bites, which are small.  Around a pound average, but if you are fishing shallow and the ocean is flat I like to use somewhat less and more if you are deeper and/or the ocean is rough.  The hooks on the leader can be tied directly to the line in the intervals.  Some folks use small jigs instead of bait to catch them, but I like to use little slices of squid that I buy frozen in the bait shops.  As always, if there is fresh squid available, I seem to have better luck with it when I am shore fishing the ocean.

A big part of sand dab fishing is knowing to let your line stay on the bottom until all the hooks are filled up or you are sure your bait is gone.  The sand dabs bite pretty aggressively so they hook themselves without having to set the hook so you are just feeling for a bunch of jerks as they bite and then somewhat of a lull in the action.  When they do bite, they are usually in bunches so it isn’t long before your hooks are filled up with sand dabs.  It may only be a couple of minutes, if that.  When you are sand dab fishing, stop the motor of the boat over the sandy bottom area that you plan to fish, which is usually off of a big beach area of the ocean, and just drift and let the ocean drag your sand dab bait along the bottom so the sand dabs bite it as it goes by them.  You will find that once you learn how to sand dab fish that it is somewhat addicting.  Especially after you are done cooking sand dabs and you lay your taste buds into them!  They are probably one of the most sweet, mild, and tasty ocean fish that you will ever eat.  There isn’t a lot of meat on them and I can eat a bunch of them, but who cares as there is no limit on sand dabs and when you catch them, it is not uncommon to fill a huge ice chest up on just one of your sand dab fishing trips.  

Cooking sand dabs is best done the old fashion way, breading and frying them.  I like to use a deep fryer so they are not greasy and cook evenly, just like I like to use when cooking my ling cod, striped bass, and abalone.  I use a mixture of corn meal, flour, seasoned bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to cook sand dabs.  I am sure you can find other ways of how to cook sand dabs, but make sure you try frying them this way as this crispy texture really brings the flavor out in them.

Cleaning sand dabs is easy and quick.   I just scale them a little quickly and cut their heads off and gut them with my forefinger and rinse them.  Cleaning a sand dab should only take about 30 seconds.  Compared to other fish, cleaning sand dabs is amazingly simple and quick.  Make sure you teach the others in camp how to clean sand dabs as you will need all the help you can get with the hundreds that you bring back from your sand dab fishing trip!

Check out our other blogs here in Fishnfools.com as they are fun and informative.  We have a great fishing community here that has great features geared for the fishing community whether you are a sturgeon fisherman or catfish angler!  Our site is free to join for all, whether you have a charter boat or are just a regular fisherman or woman.   Make sure you post your fishing pics on our site and show them off to the world and share your fishing tips and stories in our fishing forums!


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