Friday, April 20 , 2018, 7:43 am | Fair 50º


Captain’s Log: Sanddabs — The Tastiest of Our Winter Fish

Capt. Tiffany Vague on the charterboat WaveWalker shows off a tasty local sanddab. Click to view larger
Capt. Tiffany Vague on the charterboat WaveWalker shows off a tasty local sanddab.

It was a great quote: “You just sorta watch for a wiggle on your rod tip. Then wait for a second and third wiggle, and then reel up several of the tastiest little critters you ever met. Take 'em home, fry 'em quick-like in peanut oil, and there’s nuthin’ like 'em!”

That’s the way one passenger aboard my charter boat WaveWalker recently summed up sanddab fishing to his buddies.

He had talked them into going after sanddabs, and had some serious convincing to do because some of the guys wanted to go after something a bit more substantial.

After promising everyone a dinner of sanddabs at his place, they went along with his wishes. They all had fun and caught as many fish as they needed to take home.

There is no limit on sanddabs. And that is good, because it takes a few of them to make a big meal for a hungry person.

Finding sanddabs can be tricky, but once one is found a mother lode probably has been discovered, since they seem to congregate in great numbers.

The best place to look is on mixed mud and sand bottom in 150-00 feet, although it is amazing the various depths and bottom composition where sanddabs may be foraging at any given time.

Rigging up for catching sanddabs is pretty simple. One common rig is a double dropper loop. There is also a leader pre-tied with numerous hooks available in most tackle shops.

Squid is the bait of choice for these voracious critters, and they compete fiercely for the tasty baits. Cut squid into strips about 4 inches long and a half-inch wide.

Run a hook twice through the end of a squid strip, so there are a couple of inches of the strip left to undulate in the current. That’s what attracts the sanddabs.

Drop the rig to the bottom and take up the slack. It is important to fish right on the bottom because these fish lie on the bottom just like their big cousins the California halibut.

Wait for a few wiggles, like the angler said, and reel up the catch. Unhook them, check the bait and drop back down to do it all over again. It is frequently possible to load up on sanddabs in short order.

These fish don’t get very big. A 10-inch sanddab is a very big fish. Six or 7 inches is more the norm. When small ones — say 4 or 5 inches — come up, they are quite easy to release.

Sanddabs do not have air bladders, so they do not suffer from barotrauma. The hook can be carefully removed and the fish put back in the water, with a minimum of handling. They usually swim away unhurt, and that is gratifying.

Putting the keepers in cool water in a fish box, or on ice, will help keep this delicate-tasting fish at its freshest.

— 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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