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Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 4:16 am | Fog 49º


Captain’s Log: Numerous and Assorted Shark Sightings Near Santa Barbara

A growing number of sharks big enough to make us seriously consider our relative position in the food chain have been visiting Santa Barbara waters.This is becoming the year of the big shark.

We’ve got great whites (which we call, “the landlord”), and now we’ve got hammerheads thanks to El Niño. 

It is normally rare to see hammerheads this far north, but this certainly is the year for it. 

A hammerhead, by the way, is an ill-tempered beast with a very strange head. I’ve caught them on rod and reel and I can tell you that it is not an easy fight.

I haven’t heard of anyone locally trying to fish for hammerheads, but it is an option. 

Kayakers have come into my tackle shop (Hook, Line & Sinker at 4010 Calle Real in Santa Barbara) repeatedly to tell of scary moments when they were fishing and saw a dark silhouette glide under their diminutive craft, eliciting a feeling of, “I need a bigger boat!”

Most of the time, sharks circle kayaks and small boats to satisfy themselves that it is not an edible critter. Sometimes a little nudge or a small taste-test is in order.

There have been a number of incidents lately where kayaks have been bitten by sharks

Boaters get shark visits, too, especially when fishing a given spot for some time and using baits. The sharks sniff it out and come to investigate the possibility of a meal. 

Something the size of a kayak looks like a more meaningful meal than a mackerel or sardine or anchovy, but after investigation, they swim away unless there is a reason to stay.

My own feelings on these sharks is that large predators can be enjoyed for viewing and very few of them should be taken until we believe that the population is robust enough for sustainable fishing. I always want to make sure we have healthy populations for the future.

White sharks are protected in California waters. Right now, sharks are swimming here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are abundant.

I’m a conservative when it comes to fisheries management, though I’ll fight tooth and nail for our fishing rights in general.

I have a charter boat, WaveWalker, and I’m thinking about offering opportunities to go look for sharks and take lots of pictures while the sharks are still here. This El Niño opportunity won’t last long.

The phantom-like shape of a large shark strikes a primordial chord in us and we can’t help our fascination with a beast higher in the food chain.

I can invite them within viewing distance with a chumline and then we can be within feet of an apex predator of the sea. Wanna go?

— 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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