While boat-based anglers have exceedingly restrictive seasonal shutdowns at this time of year and are limited to fishing for fish, which aren’t necessarily active right now, shore-based anglers have all options open to them. This is their special time of year.
OK, boaters do still have some viable options, including white seabass up along the Gaviota coast and Hollister Ranch, since tonnage of squid keeps coming to shore to spawn. It is still possible to set the hook on a 60-pound white seabass or a nice halibut and cruise home victorious. But when the glory fish do not cooperate, the usual fall-back gameplan is to load up on the plentiful rockfish and lingcod (called groundfish, along with a few other species such as cabezon and sheepshead) we have in the Santa Barbara Channel. January and February is the closed season for groundfish, so that option is not available to boaters.
Shore-based anglers are allowed to keep groundfish year-round and so this is when they feel special. Some of my customers at Hook, Line & Sinker fishing center at 4010 Calle Real in Santa Barbara consider this the best part of their year. Store manager Capt. Tiffany Vague said, “These folks know what they are doing and they really catch some great fish from shore.”
A few days ago, one of our customers told us about a lady he saw casting into the surf zone and then fighting a good size fish. It was a good fight, and she did everything right. Her reward was a nice halibut to take home for supper. That same customer spends plenty of days in the winter working rocky shoreline spots and catching rockfish and hefty cabezon.
Cabezon warrant special mention. More of them are caught from shore than from boats, because they like the surgy, turbulent water of a rocky surf zone. “Cabbys” are tough, ornery fish with a bad disposition. They’ve got no sense of humor at all. I’ve tried grinning at them, teasing them and even telling them the very best jokes I know. These sour critters just won't crack a smile. But I sure do when I’m eating one because they are delicious.
Winter is the best time of year for barred surf perch because this is when they spawn. They are thick in the surf and they need lots of food to fuel the high-energy spawning period. Many fishers catch and release a great number of perch, only keeping enough for dinner. Sandy stretches of beaches are best for catching perch.
Stop by the tackle shop to get geared up for a fun beach adventure catching fish, which are best caught during the winter months. Taking a break at the beach is a delightful way to spend part of a day.
— 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. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.