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Monday, November 19 , 2018, 2:22 am | Fair 48º


Captain’s Log: Sharks Swarming in Goleta Waters

There are more sharks swimming around Goleta Bay than I have seen in decades. Now, before anyone panics and pulls their kids out of the water, please understand that the ones I’m talking about are thresher sharks and various bottom-dwelling sharks, which are not of particular concern to swimmers.

Threshers can grow to hundreds of pounds, but even then their diet consists of small finfish such as anchovies, sardines, smelt and mackerel. These are not big-tooth sharks like great whites or makos.

If I were in the water with threshers, I’d be more worried about the tail than the mouth. A spooked thresher may react with a tail-whack. I’ve been clocked by them while bringing them into my charter boat, WaveWalker, and lemme tell ya, I was dizzy for 20 minutes!

Anglers at Goleta Pier are having the times of their lives battling these beasts from the top of the pier. It requires heavier-than-usual pier fishing gear, specialized tackle and techniques, plus a good dose of pure guts. These fishers go to Hook, Line & Sinker fishing center in Santa Barbara and gear up with braided line or very heavy mono, with line, leaders, swivels, hooks and sliding bobbers to put together a custom rig designed to keep bait (mackerel, sardines, anchovies, etc.) in midcolumn where these big sharks like to prowl.

The other big reason for congregating there is to swap stories, share photos and pick each other's brains about what works best.

Once a thresher (aka “T-shark” or “longtail”) is hooked, the battle is on and that critter will want to head straight for tall timber. There is little in life that gets the ol’ adrenaline glands pumping juice like the sound of a screaming fishing reel.

With the right gear, an angler can work the shark back to the side of the pier and use one or more pier gaffs to gaff and haul the shark up. Thresher sharks are delicious, and their meat is valuable. Often, they are steaked-out on the pier and taken home to feed the family for days.

Other sharks include leopard, shovelnose, smoothound and sand shark. Leopard and shovelnose are both good to eat, and both put up a good fight for their size, which can be up to several feet long. These species can be caught by surf fishing, whereas it is typically necessary to get out over the water to hook with a thresher shark.

Goleta is certainly not the only area where happy fisherfolk fight sharks. Other hotspots include Carpinteria and Gaviota. But right now, Goleta Bay is swarming with sharks.

— 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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