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Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 6:28 am | Fair 45º

 
 
 
 

Captain’s Log: Catching Bat Rays Is a Blast

Aggressive bat rays seem to enjoy the fight.

Some fish get no respect and deserve better. That’s the case with bat rays.

A little girl watches from charter boat as a bat ray is pulled in. Click to view larger
A little girl watches from charter boat as a bat ray is pulled in. (Capt. David Bacon)

I had a group out on my charter boat, WaveWalker to look for halibut. The bat rays in the area decided we must be bat-ray fishing and they kept us grinning and battling all day.

On very first hookup with what the angler hoped was a halibut, I watched the rod to learn about the fighting signature of the critter and I softly told the angler, “That halibut just grew wings.”

That bat ray put up a magnificent battle that was probably considerably more fun than a halibut. Then it was hookup after hookup after hookup, and I realized the bat rays were being aggressive and chomping every bait we put down; they were particularly fond of squid.

We switched baits and moved to another location. It was like the bat rays followed us.

After a few bat rays, my charter group kind of got the hang of fighting them and realized how much fun it is to catch and release them. We had some nice units to about 70 pounds and they do grow better than twice that size.

In our part of the world, bat rays are not generally eaten. I have personally tried them and they are far from my favorite seafood.

One fairly common way to eat them is to cookie cutter the wings and fry them. In my experience they are palatable, but not good. Perhaps someone could fix them in such a way that I would enjoy, but I doubt anyone is going to have that opportunity.

It is actually fun and gratifying to release them. They are tough and the fight doesn’t seems to bother them. They swim away strongly and make me wonder if we will be releasing the battle with that particular critter in the next hour. If we do, it’s fine with me. They are fun.

Pier fishers hook into quite a few bat rays and I help set people up for that in my Goleta Pier location of my tackle shop, Hook, Line & Sinker.

It always makes me smile to see a rod bent deeply and a person grinning ear-to-ear fighting a big bat ray, probably to be released.

— 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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