Friday, February 23 , 2018, 3:22 pm | Fair 61º


Captain’s Log: We Get a Deep, Red Bonus at This Time of Year

Capt. Tiffany Vague, aboard WaveWalker, displays a vermillion rockfish, or red snapper caught in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Capt. Tiffany Vague, aboard WaveWalker, displays a vermillion rockfish, or red snapper caught in the Santa Barbara Channel.   (Capt. David Bacon)

The first big storm of the season changes everything for saltwater fisher folk. Water temps change, salinity values decrease, runoff messes with nearshore environments and the critters have some changes to go through.

That is often a good thing for lobster-hunters, but for anglers it means we have a whole new ballgame to figure out in order to find and catch our fresh seafood dinners.

Fortunately, we have a nice red bonus in store for us at this time of year. We can catch and eat tasty red rockfish, also known as vermilion rockfish or the more common name, red snapper or rockfish. We can fish for rockfish through the end of the year at depths up to 60 fathoms (360 feet).

Fishing for these critters is a great way to ease out of the surface action of summer and enjoy fishing late into the year. We also get to catch their close relatives the copper rockfish and a surprising variety of subspecies all members of the same Sebastes family of rockfishes.

Remember the little fish, Sebastes, in the children’s movie Little Mermaid? Got the connection now?

We are blessed with some great local deep-water fishing spots both along the mainland coast and the waters surrounding the Channel Islands which are loaded with rockfish. Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands have the best populations of big red rockfish.

Ways to get out to these areas include private boats, open-party sport boats and private charter services.

There are various types of productive structure spots, such as rocky rubble and outcroppings, pinnacles, canyons and shelves with irregularities along the edges. A successful method is to begin a drift so that baits or jigs drop right down into rocky spots, once they have been located with a good fish finder.

Baited hooks will frequently load up quickly with these voracious fish and very productive short drifts are common. As soon as the boat drifts off of the rocky area, reel up any remaining lines, go back up-drift, and try it again. Repeat as necessary.

Current regulations require that when fishing for rockfish, no more than two hooks may be used. Note that a treble hook, like those found on many jigs, counts as one hook. It is perfectly okay to fish with a heavy jig on the bottom and a teaser hook tied about 18 inches above the jig.

Often, multiple fish will be caught with this rig. The largest will usually be on the jig, and smaller rockfish will bite the teaser hook. The limit of rockfish is currently 10 fish.

— 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. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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