Sunday, July 15 , 2018, 4:31 pm | Fair 77º


Captain’s Log: Plan Ahead for Seafaring Fun This Summer

From whale and bird watching to sport fishing and snorkeling, opportunities abound in the Santa Barbara Channel

Great weather is here for the many months ahead, so give some serious thought to outdoor plans for this summer.

Some things are fun to do on the spur of the moment, such as picnics at the park or in a local creek bed, scenic drives, beach trips and long walks. Other things are best planned because they require a complex plan or maybe even reservations.

Let’s concentrate on those things we should mark on our calendar and plan for well in advance, and let’s further refine our plan to ocean-related fun. I can’t help it. I am a sea captain.

Whale Watching

Giant blue whales (the biggest critter ever to live on Earth) feed on krill in the Santa Barbara Channel. They are joined by greater numbers of humpback whales frolicking and showing off whenever the mood strikes.

The best viewing areas are well out into the Channel, so this requires a longer commitment of time (several hours at least). With the islands on one side and the mainland coast on the other, this cruise through the Santa Barbara Channel is a wonderful sightseeing opportunity that often includes visits from large pods of dolphin (my personal favorite critter).

Whale-watching opportunities include private boats (if you have your own boat or go out with a boater), open-party trips (offering good price/value ratio) and private charters (for the ultimate experience).

Bird Watching

The Santa Barbara Channel offers a wide range of bird-watching opportunities, including shorebirds, pelagic species and island birds — one of which is the cherished island scrub jay. This very special bird can be found only on the Channel Islands, and often can be spotted from a boat if you know just the right spots. I do.

Other fun birds are found along the water’s edge at the islands. One of my favorites is the oyster catcher. Somehow I can’t imagine an oyster catcher needing to be a very fast bird. I mean, have you ever clocked an oyster on the move?

In mid-Channel, it’s fun to watch pelagic seabirds earn their living from the sea. Some are unique and wonderful to watch, while others look like just another type of seagull. To get a bunch of sea birds to flock around a boat, appropriate chum is needed. The best thing to bring along is a huge bag of popcorn. Many of the birds will come in close for the best viewing, as they vie for popcorn tossed onto the water.

Sport Fishing

The crews of our private-charter boat or an open-party sportboat can provide all of your rods, reels, tackle, bait and even fishing licenses. Just bring food and drinks, a jacket and a camera. You can catch-and-release, or the crew will clean your fish.

Warm days are spent in pursuit of calico bass, sand bass, halibut, yellowtail, barracuda, bonito, mackerel, tuna, thresher and mako sharks, white seabass, sheephead, ocean whitefish, sculpin, cabezon, rockfish, lingcod and giant bat rays. Fisheries regulations are constantly evolving. It is mandatory to know which fish are in season and what the regulations are at any given time. When fishing on a charter boat or open-party boat, the crew will know the rules. If you are on a private boat, carefully check the Department of Fish & Game website for the latest. Just click on the area you intend to fish and up pops the regulations.

Diving and Snorkeling

The mainland coast and enchanting Channel Islands feature many reefs, shelves, wrecks, drop-offs, coves and kelp forests to explore. Our local dive shops can set you up with the gear, and charter boats or open-party boats can run out to the best spots.

There are also plenty of good spots for a beach dive. Bring along a spear gun or hand-spear, if you would like to bring back some dinner. Lobster can be caught by hand during the open season from early autumn through late winter. A fascinating array of undersea flora and fauna can be enjoyed at any season.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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