Friday, April 20 , 2018, 11:13 pm | Fair 53º


Captain’s Log: Fishing Seasons Open with Some Surprises

Capt. David Bacon catches lingcod off Santa Rosa Island. Click to view larger
Capt. David Bacon catches lingcod off Santa Rosa Island. (Capt. David Bacon courtesy photo)

I enjoy a fishing season that opens up and forces us to put our minds and intuition into it as well as our hearts. March and April are magical months because seasons open up and we get out there to catch our first fresh fish dinners of the season. Then we smack our lips and savor the flavor around the family dinner table. You can’t go to the store and buy fish that was swimming a few hours before. That’s fresh, tasty and healthy!

This may be a strange fishing season that keeps us thinking and guessing. In March, we’ve seen yellowtail on the back side of Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands, and we’ve seen 3- to 6-pound bonito up the coast between Platform Holly and Tajiguas. That, my friends, is a very strange March — unless we’re deep into an El Niño.

From what I’m hearing, the ocean modeling community is puzzled about what is happening. Are we experiencing a double El Niño? Me, I just go out and ask the fish. They know what they are doing.

The safe and secure fishing option is rockfish and lingcod. On recent trips, many anglers are finding that it is a little tough to catch a limit of lingcod, and that is because the rockfish are so hungry that they are swarming baits and lures before the lingcod below have a chance.

For the past full season, rockfish have been gorging on pelagic red crab, and now that the red critters are mostly a bit south of us, the rockfish are hungrily looking for replacement food sources. After all, when a critter becomes accustomed to readily available food, they want that food to keep coming. We have an incredibly good population of rockfish and of lingcod, so catching some for the table and for the freezer isn’t usually difficult.

A simple and effective rig is a double-dropper loop, a weight on the bottom and two hooks above, each in its own loop about 18 inches apart. The size of the weight depends up depth, current and wind. The safe bet is to go fairly heavy with 8- to 12-ounce torpedo sinkers.

Hook sizes depend upon the type of bait used. If you have live mackerel or large sardines, then a 7/0 hook size is good. But for smaller baits and squid strips, a size 3/0 hook is usually about right. Those rockfish and lingcod have large mouths.

April 1 is the opener for salmon season, and recreational anglers will be slow-trolling all over the place looking for those delicious fish. The drought has affected salmon runs in the northern rivers, so regulations are strict this year so that we can maintain a healthy and sustainable population of these important fish.

The season is here, so get out there and catch some fresh fish for dinner!

— 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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