Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 1:10 am | Fair 56º


Captain’s Log: The Yellowtail (or two) That Got Away

Santa Barbara local Martin Carbahol caught this hard-fighting yellowtail near Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara local Martin Carbahol caught this hard-fighting yellowtail near Santa Barbara. (Capt. David Bacon)

Let me tell you about the one (well, several actually) that got away.

Here in Santa Barbara we get a fantastic fishing opportunity in late summer, but not every year. It is only in warm-water summers that yellowtail cruise across the Santa Barbara Channel from the eastern end of the Channel Islands chain and hang out for a few weeks at our oil rigs about 5 miles off the coast.

Yellowtail (YT) are a hard-fighting speedster related to other members of the jack family such as amberjack and jack cravalle.

YT have afterburners and can go from still to warp 5 speed in a tenth of a micron. That usually happens when they feel a hook in their mouth and in that moment the angler had better be prepared for a mano-a-mano battle of epic proportions.

If successful, the angler’s dinner table is going to be laid out with some very tasty meals for the family.

First we jigged up some mackerel to use for live bait. Jigging mackerel with Sabiki rigs is an absolute blast and full-grown people turn into hooting and hollering kids while bringing up multiple mackerel at once.

When the bait tank has enough, we troll on out to the rig, hoping to pick up a bonito or barracuda along the way.

Once at the oil rig, I position my charterboat, WaveWalker within casting distance of the legs of the rigs. My crew member, Capt. Tiffany Vague, usually casts for everyone but sometimes when we have skilled and experienced casters aboard, we let them cast their own baits.

The rods and reels we use are mid-size ... big enough to hold a sufficient quantity of 30- to 40-pound line (preferably braided line with fluorocarbon topshot) but small enough to be comfortable in the hand to make many, many casts.

The rod is typically a 7- to 8-foot rod in the 20- to 50-pound class. The only thing on the end of the line is a large hook tied on with a San Diego Jam knot. Pin on a live mackerel and cast to the legs of the oil rig.

I told them and told them and told them ... when a yellowtail takes the bait, you are going to have at most 4 seconds to pull hard enough to turn that tough fish before it makes it to the legs of the rigs and saws off your line on the sharp barnacles and mussels.

I warned them that they didn’t have 5 seconds, only 4 at the most.

Then each time someone hooked up with a yellowtail, they pulled and assumed that classic fish-fighting stance that we all enjoy and forgot to reel down and pull with all their might.

So I counted — 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. PING! The fish won the tug o’ war contest and the line was cut on the legs of the rig.

My passengers took their beating (by the yellowtails) well and we went and caught them some rockfish and lingcod so they could go home with some healthy, tasty fish.

But those YT? They are out there eating and growing and waiting for me to return with another group of passengers who want a challenge.

— 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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