Wednesday, November 22 , 2017, 12:22 am | Fair 55º


Captain’s Log: Giant Seabass Encounters Awe Inspiring

We were boiler rock bassing aboard my charter boat WaveWalker for calico bass at the west end of Santa Cruz Island using light tackle and 15-pound fishing line.

This is a royal blast, positioning the boat within easy casting distance of the rocks with big swells crashing over them, creating whitewater where the bass forage for food.

We cast swimbaits (soft plastic fish-shaped bodies with lead heads) to the edge of the rocks and slowly retrieve it back to the boat, waiting for the rod to load up and a muscle-bound bass to inhale it and head for the rocks or kelp.

One of my passengers looked up at me with a big grin to say how much fun he was having and he slowed his retrieve allowing the swimbait to sink out to the rocks below the boat. He realized what he had done and quickly began reeling.

His rod bent deeply and stayed steadily bent which usually indicates the swimbait got hung up in the rocks.

Sometimes it is possible to bounce them and pull them free, so the angler pulled and bounced for a couple of minutes. Just as he was giving up, his rod bent deeper and his reel began paying out line against a stiff drag system.

After moving about 20 yards, it was like he was stuck on a solid rock again.

The angler looked perplexed and ask me if these boulders out here usually go for a swim. I smiled and said, “Giant seabass ... hold on and don’t worry. When that fish starts to pull you over, we’ll grab yer ankles.”

With just 15-pound line and a light rod to work with, it didn’t take long before he busted off, mumbling and perplexed.

There are more of these giant seabass now than at any time in my long life. Back when I was a kid (200 or 300 years ago), we could fish for them.

I’ll always remember watching a family friend pull into the driveway in his truck, which had a giant tail draped over the tailgate. The truck bed was filled by a 650-pound giant seabass. We all worked long and hard that night processing that fish. We ate good.

Since then, we’ve learned much and applied solid fisheries management to problem populations.

A whole generation of people (my generation) gave up fishing for giant seabass so future generations can hopefully fish for them again in a carefully-developed fishery management plan.

I doubt that it will be in my lifetime, but with populations appearing to grow, I’m confident the time will come.

I’ve known divers who have encountered the big, curious giants underwater and said it was truly awe-inspiring.

Fishing crews aboard charter and party boats care about these big critters and I’ve seen crew members get into the water with a giant seabass that was brought to the surface and needed a little help with barotrauma.

Those crew members are heartily cheered when the big fish is recuperated and swims strongly back down to its rocky environment.

— 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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