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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 6:11 pm | A Few Clouds 63º


Captain’s Log: Would You Like a Whale With That Fish?

A gray whale surfaces in the Santa Barbara Harbor. Click to view larger
A gray whale surfaces in the Santa Barbara Harbor. (David Bacon photo)

Whenever you get five fisherfolk together, you’ll have half a dozen different perspectives on what makes for a great trip. One sure thing I’ve learned about fisherfolk… we are a varied lot.  

Some folks are hard-core “Give me fish, or give me nothing” kind of people, but most revel in mixing things up and taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities Mother Nature presents us with.

For example, now is the time of year when it is easy to mix whale watching and fishing.

I run my charters on the Santa Barbara Channel and around the Channel Islands, and we are currently blessed with an opportunity to combine a day of productive fishing with viewing active grey whales while they cruise back up the coast, sometimes with fresh calves. Pods of dolphins also pop up to play along fairly frequently.

Our area has a vast array of structure spots covered with helthy populations of shallow water rockfish, lingcod, ocean whitefish, sheepshead and other fishes. When we’re hauling in fish after fish, watching whales frolicking a short ways off, we can’t help but think that life doesn’t get much better than this!

Fishing tackle for such adventures is pretty basic stuff. A double dropper loop is a good rig to use out here, because it allows for the most productive fishing. These fish are pretty good at gnawing bait off of a hook; however, with two hooks baited with durable squid strips, an angler has the best chance of hooking up with a fish or two.

We’ve got naturally-occurring bait (mackerel, anchovies, sardines) off our coast and warm water temps thanks to El Niño, so there is a definite possibility of encountering schools of surface gamesters such as barracuda, bonito and maybe even yellowtail feeding on the same baitballs.

When surface fish are spotted or hooked, it is time to break out the lighter gear and rig for surface action. I like to set up a few folks with live bait rigs.

I slide a ⅜ ounce sliding sinker onto the line, tie on a size 2 live bait hook, pin on a live anchovy from the bait tank and cast it out. I like to set up a few other folks with jigs and spoons such as Raiders and Krocodiles.

These folks will be constantly casting and retrieving until one of those surface gamesters load up the rod and heads for tall timber. That’s when the fun really begins because there is a serious fight to be won — or lost!

At times like this — surrounded by hungry fish, playful whales and frolicking dolphins — everyone on board is having the time of their lives.

Combo recreational opportunities are a rare treat that should be enjoyed to the fullest. After all, this is Santa Barbara!

— 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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