I’ve lived long and fished hard, but never have I seen such a weird fishing season. Fish are here that just shouldn’t be here, and others are just out of reach. One thing remains constant: Fishing is great!
I can’t remember a year when we cared about the closing date of salmon season. After all, we hadn’t seen a salmon in at least two months. Now here it is closing weekend, and guess what? Salmon fishing is actually pretty good locally, in spite of water temps in the mid- to high 60s.
Over the past few weeks, salmon were discovered in their usual local haunts. One of our most colorful and enjoyable commercial fishermen, Mike McCorkle, got into them because he likes to mix things up and try the unexpected. I love this guy because if you ask him what time it is, you might be rewarded with a dissertation on how watches are made and why they may not always keep time accurately. Soon, other commercial fishers and recreational fishers alike were enjoying the late-season bonanza.
Thresher sharks — lots of them — took up residence off Goleta Beach and seem to have signed a long-term lease. People fishing from the Goleta Pier have been catching them consistently for the past two months. There have been days, and especially nights, when a half-dozen were hooked from the pier. One thing that helped the T-shark bite was a special technique developed locally and specifically for pier fishing. Stop by my tackle shop (Hook, Line & Sinker at 4010 Calle Real in Santa Barbara) and we’ll show you how to rig for success.
Bonito didn’t show up in force this year, even though conditions seemed right. Some were caught from our local piers, but the large schools of huge bonito we’ve enjoyed over most of the past five years swung away from us instead of concentrating to feed in our local waters. Too bad, because I was eagerly anticipating their arrival and the grand fishing battles they provide.
Jumbo white seabass to 70 pounds bit steadily along the mainland coast from Goleta to past Gaviota, wherever squid spawns went off. It wasn’t long ago that we didn’t know white seabass could get that big. Now this year, a 30-pounder is just an enjoyable fish, not a big one.
As is normal in warm water years, we have flying fish around the Channel Islands and sunfish seemingly everywhere. We also have flurries of fishing action on yellowtail at the islands. We have stories of tuna outside the islands. Exotics are very far up the coast. Nearly two weeks ago, several dorado were caught off of Fort Bragg.
Yup, that’s weird. But I love this season, and it doesn’t seem willing to wind down quite yet. That is a blessing.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.