Saturday, June 23 , 2018, 1:02 pm | Fog/Mist 67º


Captain’s Log: Appreciating Santa Barbara’s Awesome Commercial Fishing Fleet

Capt. Tiffany Vague displays a white seabass, a delicious fish that even looks tasty.
Capt. Tiffany Vague displays a white seabass, a delicious fish that even looks tasty. (David Bacon photo)

Do you like seafood? If the answer is “yes,” then join me in appreciation for our local commercial fishing fleet.

I’ve come to know many of these guys and gals over the years and I have a deep respect for their workday, camaraderie and for the service they provide — sometimes at great risk and always with great labor — to our seafood-hungry community.

A great variety of food from the sea comes into Santa Barbara Harbor. Some of our folks dive for uni (sea urchins), which means they enter the food chain on a regular basis to bring in what the community wants.

Their work also helps maintain the health of our fragile kelp forests and prevents overgrazed (by urchins) areas we call “urchin barrens.”

We have a black cod fleet that runs their boats out to deep water and in areas where the wind is often relentless and ruthless. The target is an oil-rich deepwater fish we call black cod.

Some folks can’t get enough of the stuff. The fishers make multi-day trips and live out of a cooler while bobbing on the bumpy water.

Our crabbers and lobster boat crews get a workout hauling up, rebaiting and putting down pots. Bad weather with big swells can be costly in terms of lost gear. We do love our crab and lobster dinners so we need these hard-working folks.

Shrimp fishers and other netters work some cold, harsh nights and days out on the water, working deeper spots. Next time a shrimp platter is served up piping hot, think about the hard effort it took to go catch them.

Our hook & line fleet of boats is truly amazing. Quite a number of guys and gals work small to medium boats, often heading out in the pre-dawn hours or spending the night on anchor in order to begin fishing before gray light.

These fisherfolk target a great many fish but some of the most popular include white seabass, halibut and yellowtail.

The tough part is that those fish are not always concentrated and they are not always biting, which means these folks bear the coast and effort of unproductive trips as well as money-making trips.

Want to learn more about our commercial fishers and their local history? Visit the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum or just come hang out at the harbor and watch them unload their catches.

Then enjoy a seafood meal at a local eatery. Before you order your meal, ask the server or manager if that restaurant buys locally (that means Santa Barbara) caught seafood.

Some do and some turn their backs on our local commercial fisherfolk and instead buy from elsewhere. That may be cheaper but less fresh, and the freshness make a huge difference on the taste scale.

Please, eat locally-caught seafood because it supports our commercial fleet and because… the fresher the better.

— 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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