Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 5:56 am | Fair 64º

 
 
 
 

Captain’s Log: Angling For Live Bait

David Bacon provides an insider's look at the live bait operation at Santa Barbara Harbor.

Article Image
A bait dock attendant at the Santa Barbara Harbor scoops bait for the WaveWalker. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

It is always interesting to discover how an outdoors business operates when working with wild critters. Our live bait operation at Santa Barbara Harbor sells anchovies and sardines, but few people understand how the live bait gets there and ultimately into bait tanks aboard our fishing vessels.

image
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
The live bait story begins at sea in the dark of night where captain and crew (called “bait haulers”) work wet and cold, long and hard, to find and catch live bait. They search all along the coast, or many miles at sea, looking for large schools of anchovies and sardines on the surface, where the crew can net them.

The bait boat pulls up, puts out one end of a long purse seine net and runs the net off a large drum as the boat circles around the bait. The net is pulled tight at the bottom and up against the side of the boat. The bait fish are scooped with long-handled no-knot scoop nets into the large holding tanks aboard the bait boat. Great care is taken to exclude and protect nontargeted species that happen to be among the bait. The nets are then reeled back onto the drum, ready for the next set.

The ride to harbor is slow and gentle to avoid damage to the fragile cargo. Once at the receivers, the bait goes through a large tube from the holding tanks aboard the boat and into the waiting net-lined receivers. If some of the receivers have bait left from the prior load, it is commonly sold while the new load “cures,” or rests, and feeds to gain strength.

When it is time to sell the bait, it is “crowded” within the receiver into netting stretched between poles or netting stretched within a rectangular frame, making it easier for the bait receiver attendant to scoop the bait into a long-handled scoop net for passing to the bait tank aboard a fishing boat.

During the selling process, the customer protocol and courtesy come into play. Most boats launch early, and it seems as if everyone wants bait at the same time. The best way to stay organized is to que up boats near the receivers, roughly in a line, and wait for a turn.

Commercial passenger-carrying fishing vessels such as party boats and 6-Pak boats typically get served right away because they are commercial operations on a strict time schedule, and our mortgages and businesses depend on it. This sometimes bothers a few private boaters, but the reality is that without the commercial operations, there probably wouldn’t be live bait available for private boaters.

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

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >