Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 11:27 pm | Fair 65º


Captain’s Log: The Magic of Mud Line Fishing

Runoff from winter rains create food-rich areas that keep hungry fish close to shore

Waterspouts, thunderstorms aligned in squall formation, raging winds and towering seas — oh, my. It was a nice week to stay ashore.

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

But you know me. I’m always seeking an opportunity for adventure. For a few days after the storms pass and the winds settle, we’ll have an unusual — for us Southern California folks — fishing opportunity. Runoff pouring out of rivers and streams create food-rich mud lines where fish forage hungrily.

Mud lines are magic spots to fish. Near-shore game fish tend to forage along, just outside mud lines, in cleaner water. After a wet winter storm, wily anglers meter along fresh mud lines looking for hungry sand bass, calico bass, halibut or white seabass and small sharks such as smoothounds, pinbacks and shovelnose.

From a fish’s perspective, mud lines promise tasty tidbits washed out from shore with runoff from heavy rains. They also serve as a visibility boundary, causing the fish to stay just a few yards outside, where they can see to forage. This is actually a treat for the fish because they have a chance to eat a more varied fare than usual. From the angler’s perspective, this is a classic case of reading and taking advantage of conditions to find some actively feeding fish close to shore — and making the most out of a welcome break in the weather.

Likely places that come to mind are river and major stream mouths of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. Mud lines run out from a river mouth and bend downcurrent. Fish just outside of that bend in the mud line for best results.

Tackle choices should be a little different for this type of fishing. Rummage around in your tackle box and pull out anything that resembles a big bug, small rodent, worm, grasshopper or anything that may be expected to wash down a rain-swollen river or stream. This may be a good time to borrow from your fresh-water tackle box to find the right lure to attract a mud-line monster.

Be creative, and have some fun. The trick is to drift these offerings along the bottom like they were just washed out from shore and are either fresh-dead or maybe with just a little life left in them. The usual saltwater baits will work equally well, so stop by the live bait receiver and bring along some squid, shrimp, mussel, octopus or blood worms.

It’s easy to become engrossed in this kind of fishing and forget to keep an eye on the weather. The sea can turn deadly in a heartbeat, and this is the time of year to be extra wary. So please keep one eye tuned to the conditions and be ready to run for the harbor or a pier hoist when sea conditions warrant a hasty retreat. Let’s be safe!

— 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.

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