Action of white seabass has moved from the islands to the coast this season with sporadic but great fishing reported from San Diego to Monterey. Locally, Santa Barbara area anglers have much to celebrate.

Capt. David Bacon

Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

A prolonged squid spawn in the vicinity of Naples Reef concentrated coastal white seabass, and fishers have enjoyed phenomenal catches of the 20- to 40-plus-pound prize fish during the past few weeks. As is typical, the squid spawn also attracts hordes of bat rays, which we affectionately call “mud marlin.”

A 20- to 40-pound white seabass will make a couple of pretty decent runs, but bat rays often make very long runs. So when an angler hooks up — hoping it is a white seabass — but the critter begins to make a long and powerful run punctuated with methodical wing beats (rather than the more brief interlude tail beats of a white seabass), we say, “Looks like your white seabass just grew wings.” No worries, though, because mud marlin are a blast to catch and release unharmed, though some folks keep them to cut up and fry the wings.

White seabass, however, are one of the best-tasting fish in the sea and well worth the effort and patience required for success.

When fishing a squid spawn, the effort begins with jigging squid rigs to catch some live “squirts” for bait. Then, bait up using a dropper loop rig, a reverse dropper loop rig or a sliding sinker rig. Fish near the bottom and wait patiently. Often times, a white seabass will take the bait tentatively, and patience is required to keep from setting the hook before the fish has the whole bait in its mouth. A deep bend in the rod is the reward.

When live squid — referred to as “candy bait” — isn’t available for jigging, no worries. Bait up with an anchovy, sardine or mackerel. White seabass eat more finfish than squid during their lives anyway.

Whatever you use for bait, the key is to fish early in the day. There’s no real need to get out there before daylight, but it is best to plan a morning trip and to try to leave harbor within an hour of dawn. Since the fish are along the coast, it’s usually a fairly quick run to the fishing grounds.

Naples Reef has provided the most consistent local action. It is a revered fishing spot and of critical importance to the sportfishing/conservation community. Unfortunately, preservationists want to close it down and keep it locked away as part of the Marine Life Protection Act process. If that happens, the socioeconomic impacts would be damaging to the fishing industries.

As a form of socioeconomic justice, I believe that before any reef zone is taken from us, an artificial reef of equal or greater fishing value should be built in a nearby area where we can still fish. I call the concept “a reef for a reef.” It is fair.

Rod and reel anglers aren’t the only ones scoring white seabass dinners along the coast. Free-divers are searching coastal kelp beds and spearing some very large white seabass to more than 50 pounds.

It is nice to be able to go down and be selective!

— 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.

Capt. David Bacon, Noozhawk Columnist

— 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.