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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 2:25 pm | Fair 63º


Captain’s Log: August Fishing Sure to Sizzle Along Santa Barbara Coasts

Hard-fighting bonito enhance the fishing opportunities of summer along the Santa Barbara coast. Click to view larger
Hard-fighting bonito enhance the fishing opportunities of summer along the Santa Barbara coast. ((Capt. Tiffany Vague photo))

August is a powerful month in the world of coastal fishing, and an August during an El Niño year is even better.

There are lots of different fish to target, and a trip can be put together to fit the needs of kids, novices or experienced anglers. Get a trip in before the kids go back to school or before the best time of year slides past like a kelp paddy in a current break.

Stop by Hook, Line & Shooter fishing center, 4010 Calle Real #5 in Santa Barbara to get the scoop on what’s biting and what you need in the way of fishing gear.

As water temps rise, the surface gamesters of summer ride the warm water currents up the coast and fan out along both the mainland and the islands. This is when we tie on casting irons such as jigs and spoons and give our drag systems a good test on bonito, barracuda and the occasional yellowtail.

The Santa Barbara Channel is the northern extremity of the typical range of bonito, and they come each summer with the intention of staying awhile to feed on our rich abundance of inshore bait balls.

I have enjoyed the best bonito runs of my entire life just a few miles out of Santa Barbara Harbor. I’m talking about 10- to 15-pound drag-burning bruisers!

When they show up, troll deep stingers, crippled herring, slammers or feathers through the schools of fish on the surface when birds are wheeling and diving on a feeding frenzy. It is fun! 

Thresher sharks are our inshore big-game option along the Santa Barbara area coast. Successful sharkers troll Rapalas or drift live mackerels near Rock Island, Carpinteria, Goleta and the Gaviota coast. 

Calico bass are joined at this time of year by hordes of big grumpy sand bass scouring near-shore clam beds and feeding around inshore reefs. It is quite common to catch a mixed limit of calicos and sandies.

The calicos will usually move up higher in the water column, while the sandies generally stay just a little lower. That is certainly not a hard rule however, and many individual fish seem to do their own thing with wild abandon. 

That’s part of the fun of bass fishing. The other part is grinning ear-to-ear at how hard these fish can fight!

Halibut haunt the shallows all throughout summer and autumn. Drifting lazily and dragging a live bait along just outside of the surf zone is a deliciously decadent way to spend a summer afternoon.

Folks who want to increase their catch by working harder can try the bounce-ball technique, which is a form of slow-trolling. 

White sea bass treat us very well during the summer, and we even get some inshore squid spawns. The best summertime bite is usually near squid spawns, which show up well on electronic fish finders.

White sea bass, halibut and even yellowtail gather around squid spawns for the easy meals. Anglers jig up some live squid, pin them on a hook and send them right back down.

— 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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