Monday, July 16 , 2018, 5:21 am | Fair 65º


David Bacon

Captain’s Log: Cute Cormorants Causing Chaos

Burgeoning population of "batman" birds dive in to feast on anglers' bait

Cormorants are amazing birds — so quick, so skilled in the water. And, they are fascinating.

I enjoy seeing them on buoys where they stand still with wings outstretched in their best Batman imitation drying out their pits and wings because they are so oily they don’t dry out naturally without airing it all out in the wind.

I’ve had kids ask if those are batman birds and it is quite amusing.

When we are fishing, though, cormorants are a nuisance, but we live with it and release them carefully when they manage to get a hook stuck in them because they keep stealing the baits and fish off our hooks.

We often switch to very heavy weights to get our bait down through the water column faster than the cormorants can chase it down, which is surprisingly fast.

The cormorant population appears to be increasing and they are running low on natural rocks on which to roost. They completely took over the bird-roost devices we constructed off the Ellwood shore above an artificial reef.

They roost in trees above coastal cliffs and some believe they are killing those trees with their droppings. Examples of this can be seen along the cliffs next to the 101 freeway in Montecito, Summerland and elsewhere.

Cormorants also move quite far inland to take advantage of feeding opportunities that we often create. When we stock Cachuma Lake with trout for recreation and consumption, we create a feeding frenzy and way too many trout are scarfed up by hungry cormorants.

Cormorants chased other species away and took over the bird roosts constructed offshore from Ellwood. Click to view larger
Cormorants chased other species away and took over the bird roosts constructed offshore from Ellwood. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

Should we manage cormorants? Some think they are cute and we shouldn’t bother them.

I say that once we enter the realm of wildlife management, which we have engaged in for a long time, we'd better be prepared to manage the entire food chain in a holistic manner and never let ourselves fall into the deadly trap of protecting certain species based upon the cute factor.

I recommend our wildlife managers put some priority on studying the impacts and management options related to the growing population of cormorants.

— 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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