I was drift-fishing for halibut with a friend, off Padaro Lane in 30 feet of water, when we saw a young sea lion that had learned a valuable lesson and it also taught a valuable lesson just by looking at it.

For wild critters, most lessons are learned harshly, and this one was no exception.

Drift fishing is a fairly casual method of fishing, and it was a quiet moment. I heard something break the surface of the water right next to the boat, so I leaned over the side to take a look-see.

A young California sea lion looked back at me, and both of us raised our eyebrows. I estimated the sea lion to be roughly between a preteen and a teen, using human age words. It wasn’t fully grown, but it was getting there.

As the sea lion rolled to glide beneath the surface, my eyes went wide when I saw a pattern of three deep gashes sideways across its back. I mean these were serious gashes, the kind that made me wonder how the youngster was still alive.

From a quick study of the pattern of gashes including the width, depth and spacing, it was clear only a great white shark would inflict such a bite pattern. It couldn’t have been a juvenile white shark. Those big triangular teeth marks told me the encounter had been with a mature shark.

That fact made this the luckiest sea lion I ever recall seeing. Unlucky because it had been bit by a mature white shark, but extremely lucky because it maneuvered its way off those scary big teeth and lived to tell the tale by showing the bite marks.

Those bite marks and its “I’m still alive” status earns great respect among its peers. I had to respect the little critter, too, for being agile and fast enough to escape “Jaws”.

This area above Carpinteria and off Padaro Lane is known for being sharky, and researchers have tagged good numbers of various size white sharks there.

An area off the southwest end of San Miguel Island has long since earned the nickname “Shark Park,” and I’m naming this area of Padaro Lane “Coastal Shark Park.”

Let this story serve to remind the community that those lovely beaches along Padaro Lane and Carpinteria are inviting, and the beach is usually safe. That safety does not extend into the water, however.

Be careful, it is a wilderness out there with prime predators.

Capt. David Bacon, Noozhawk Columnist

— 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.