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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 2:55 pm | A Few Clouds 61º


Captain’s Log: Anchovy Invasion Underway

Food chain queuing up to tuck in for feast

A bait hauler delivers live bait (often anchovies) to bait receiver in Santa Barbara Harbor.
A bait hauler delivers live bait (often anchovies) to bait receiver in Santa Barbara Harbor. (Capt. David Bacon)

If anchovies were like piranha, beach swimmers might be in trouble. Massive bait balls of anchovies have moved tight to the coast from south of Santa Barbara all the way up to Bodega Bay and the total mega-tonnage is mindboggling.

What this means for our coastal fisheries cannot be understated and is definitely cause for celebration. Oh, and they are not at all like piranha, so no worries.

Rarely in my long life have seen such a strong showing of anchovies close-in to our beaches and filling our harbors along such a great stretch of California. The anchovy population exploded and they will be maturing for some months ahead.

While the anchovies are here, much of the inshore food chain gets to feast heartily. Some members of the offshore food chain will move inshore to feed. If these anchovies stay inshore through the spring, there will be an awful lot of mating and birthing, egg laying and hatching going on throughout the wild kingdom.

If the massive bait balls are still here in April, when salmon season opens, it may draw those fish in to the coast where we can target them and we may have ourselves a fine salmon season.

It has been years since we’ve had a good year here, because the fish have been far offshore and the drought up north has impeded spawning activities. Now with the northern rivers running strong and lots of bait inshore, salmon may have wildly successful spawns this year.

Other fish we love and depend upon are taking full advantage of the glut of food. Calico bass, sand bass, halibut and white sea bass are some of the popular ones. This also has coincided with the season when bigger lingcod move in shallow to spawn so they are getting a belly-full. Sea birds and marine mammals are also tying on the feed bag.

This is thanksgiving time for the oceanic food chain.

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

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