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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 6:32 am | Fair 43º


Captain’s Log: Emotions Run High When the Oceanic Food Chain Goes Nuts

Every seabird within miles converges on a surface feeding frenzy.
Every seabird within miles converges on a surface feeding frenzy. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

I just gotta borrow your collective shoulder on this one, because it made me laugh and nearly cry — all at the same time. So read up and show me a little tenderness.

It was early rockfish season and the noble white seabass had also been biting off and on (that’s always the way white seabass bite!). The weather was calm and the seas were flat. Tides were good and the current was medium, uphill and inside — a perfect day for fishing.

My charter that day, however, was a group of bird watchers. That’s OK. I very much enjoy the variety of critters out there, and going bird-watching is a kick in the pants.

Bird watchers amuse me. They often come aboard with huge bags of popped corn, which is chum to bring pelagic seabirds around the boat so that the watchers can see the birds up close and better distinguish similar species. It’s all good, and a few handfuls of popcorn for passengers and crew are in order.

The surprising thing about bird watchers is how they always seem to believe each other. They each have a book in which they write down birds they have seen. When a birder says he or she has seen a particular species, everyone simply believes it. In fishing circles, however, if you don’t have a picture of a fish you say you caught, hey, it never happened!

David Bacon
Felipe Castaneda, left, and Capt. David Bacon enjoy a moment with a big white seabass. (Capt. Tiffany Vague photo)

We found some birds that day, but for much of the day it was kinda slow. We were well up the coast, cruising slow and looking. That’s when my skipper’s sixth sense began making my hair stand up and got me to looking around because I felt that the food chain was beginning to rattle.

Suddenly, dead ahead, a school of big white seabass broke the surface and chased skittering baitfish. You gotta understand that it is extremely rare for white seabass to bust the surface in a feeding frenzy. It also meant that dang near any lure that hit the water would be savagely attacked instantly.

I looked pleadingly at those bird watchers, but none of them seemed the least bit interested in catching fish. In fact, one asked if those fish would bring birds around. I quietly assured the group that it would. Sure enough, two minutes later we had enough birds around to fill up lots of bird-watching books and my passengers were ecstatic.

But it sure hurt not to catch a delicious white seabass for my family!

— 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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