Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 7:07 am | Fair 49º


Captain’s Log: First White Seabass Arrive in Flurry

Early in the season, fishing for these fish is a quick and satisfying game of right place, right time

With feverish haste and shivering fingers, we baited-up and dropped down big sardines and small mackerels. Foraging white seabass under the boat turned our fishfinder red with images that looked like stacked thick sausages. White seabass have large air bladders that paint startling images on the scope. That first flurry of wild white seabass is a moment of glory for anglers anxious to shake off the lethargy of winter fishing.

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

The fish responded with soft bites followed by hard pulls as they headed for tall timber. The timber in this case was a nearby kelp forest because we were fishing for schooling white seabass foraging along the edges of the kelp beds off of Santa Rosa Island. These were smaller fish, about 15 to 20 pounds each, and we were able to stop them — by tightening the drag on our reels — before they forged into the thick kelp.

Still, on light spinning rods spooled with 20 pound line; this was a hoot and holler. All four of my charter passengers hooked up immediately and all four fish were boated. We had our limit (reduced from three fish to just one from March 15 to June 15) in 15 hectic minutes of fishing. 

The nature of early-season white seabass fishing is hours (and sometimes days) of searching, followed by a brief and wild wide-open bite. Early season fish are usually smaller, as these were, and cruise the kelp forests feeding on finfish such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel. 

Any time now, massive squid spawns will get going and attract the big bruiser white seabass. Then we’ll be fishing with heavier gear and battling much larger units … 30 to 50 pounds. The action will continue sporadically through the summer months and into early autumn. 

We will fish for the bigger units much differently because we’ll find them out away from the kelp beds over flats where the squid come in to spawn in water that ranges from 60 to 120 feet deep. Typical rigs will be 25- to 40-pound line spooled on medium reels such as a Penn International 975 and Penn Torque rod. Dropper loop rigs will be baited with live or dead squid, and we will also rig up with white jigs because they imitate spawned out squid.

Once a big white seabass is hooked, plan on fighting it awhile. It has plenty of strength to bend your rod deep and you’d better not tighten the drag too much or the hook may pull out. Just settle down and prepare yourself for a 10-round fight. 

To get into the action … or at least spend some very enjoyable time trying … book a trip with one of the private charter services in our harbor (my own included) or call Sea Landing to book a spot on an open-party trip.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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