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June 19, 2013

Island Time

Summer is prime for Southern California white seabass.


February-April: Fair

May: Good

June-August: Excellent 

September-October: Good

November-December: Fair


Night Bite

Once you’ve baited up, it’s a good idea to leave the ­underwater light on, as the more squid in the water, the more likely a school of seabass will come to investigate.

Anglers used to fish with bottom rigs exclusively, but in recent years, it has become clear that white seabass often feed close to the surface at night. Savvy anglers cover the water column with baits. 

Typically, this includes a dropper-loop rig with a 7/0 ­wide-gap J-hook, such as a Lazer Trokar TK10, tied three feet above a fluorescent 6- to 10-ounce torpedo sinker, set a few cranks off the bottom and fished from rod ­holders in the bow. To cover the mid-depths, dangle a white jig, such as a Tady AA (with fluorescent paint on one side), with a single hook and one or two squid pinned on. These are best fished from rod holders just forward of the ­transom. 

Anglers fishing from the transom usually fly-line squid or use a balloon to hold the bait near the surface. White seabass rarely swim close to the boat, so present the surface bait just outside the glow of the underwater light.

Darkness adds to the difficulty factor when battling these big, powerful fish. To reduce the chaos, get all the deck lights on, clear the other lines, and get the rods away from the rail. 

Relatively heavy tackle also helps maintain control — 40-pound mono is minimal. White seabass are not ­particularly line shy, especially at night. The heavy tackle allows for very tight drags, to help keep fish close to the boat and as vertical as possible. Seabass have a decent set of sharp teeth, so the heavy line also helps prevent the fish from biting off.

Action on the squid grounds sometimes extends into the morning hours, and some of the best fishing can take place between first light and sunrise. But you can’t count on it. Too many times, anglers show up in the gray only to learn that the bite ­happened hours earlier. 

Kelp Lines

Daytime fishing can pay off once the fish retreat to the shadows of the kelp beds. White seabass are more likely to venture out of the forests when there’s current. These were the conditions Capt. Adams recognized last July aboard Rail Time

Some of the best days for current are around a new or full moon.

Another prime indicator is a milky color break extending from the edge of the kelp, particularly at Catalina. White seabass tend to travel and feed along these breaks on their daytime forays outside the kelp. 

Submerged kelp fronds might extend out into the deeper water, so it’s important to stay well outside the kelp line. Get in too tight, and you might have a difficult time landing a 50- or 60-pounder that powers its way back into cover. 

Covering the water column with a combination of bottom rigs, metal jigs in the mid-depths, and surface baits is a good idea too, even though the water here is usually shallower than on the squid grounds. 

You can use the same tackle as on the squid grounds, but many anglers like to add a “kelp-cutter” outfit to their arsenal when fly-lining or fishing with a balloon. This consists of 65-pound-test coated Spectra with a 2- or 3-foot 40- to 50-pound fluorocarbon leader, attached with an Albright or uni-knot splice.

With this type of abrasion-resistant combintaion, you’re able to slice through the stalks of kelp should a seabass bully its way into the weeds. This technique works best if you back the drag off a bit so the line saws its way through the kelp. Once the fish is clear of the weeds, tighten up again, and don’t back off until it’s on the gaff.

That’s the way to make the most of island time.