North Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties

by Capt. David Bacon

Above Point Conception, a prominent coastal feature of California, lie miles of rugged coast with relatively few access points due to military bases and private property. Some great surf fishing options do exist along this stretch, such as Jalama Beach and Surf, near the town of Lompoc. A little further upcoast, quality surf fishing continues at Costa de Oro near Los Osos, and around Morro rock at the entrance to Morro Bay. These areas promise great beauty and good fishing, but keep a vigilant eye on sea conditions because very large swells will sometimes surge over previously dry rocks and headlands.

Sportfishing landings operate in Avila Beach (Port San Luis), Morro Bay, and San Simeon. These provide opportunities to catch king salmon during the springtime, halibut all summer, albacore in the late summer and fall, lingcod both fall and winter, and quality rockfish year-round. There are always some good fish to catch along this wild stretch of coast, and the fishing pressure is usually pretty light. Everything up here seems a little less crowded and slightly slower paced. It is a wonderful area to spend a weekend or vacation.

Picture above: Jerry Jandt of Santa Barbara holds up a tasty ling cod taken on a shiny jig fishing deep (350 feet) at seamount off Southern California.

Salmon fishing warrants a special note. The early weeks of the sport salmon season, in early March, commonly finds the fish milling around this section of coast. Hard-core salmoneers like to begin their season with trips out of Port San Luis or Morro Bay, then move down to the Santa Barbara Channel a few weeks into the season. The two most common techniques for salmon are trolling and mooching. Trolling involves downriggers or weight releases, flasher blades, and lures or bait. Mooching is all about anchoring or drifting over a large bait ball and dropping down a bait on light line, a small hook, and splitshot. The large open-party sportboats will mooch because there are just too may people to troll. Many of the private boats or 6-pack charterers will troll more than mooch, because there's an advantage to working an area thoroughly by dragging irresistible objects past as many fish as possible. Whichever way you choose to fish them , these king (Chinook) salmon are truly magnificent critters.

The landing in San Simeon runs trips to the Point Sur area for lingcod and shallow water rockfish. These adventures are legendary for putting a pile of great fillets in the freezer. On light tackle, these fish are very worthy of our standup fishing style.

We catch rockfish and lingcod by the boatload throughout the fall and winter months all up and down the coast, but the best quality fish are from the Santa Barbara Channel on up to San Simeon. There are many species of rockfish, but most are sold in markets and restaurants as “red snapper”. Lingcod share the same habitat. These are big mean prehistoric looking fish with an attitude to match. In my vernacular, any lingcod over 10 pounds is a “lingasaur”. They've earned that nickname with me and I've got the scars to prove it. They a favorite target on my fishing charters because they fight well, taste good, and look great in pictures.

San Luis Obispo County Sportfishing:

Avila Bay - Port San Luis
Paradise Sportfishing
Pier 3
Avila Beach, CA 93424
(805) 595-7200

Morro Bay
Virg's Landing
1215 Embarcadero
Morro Bay, CA 93442
(805) 772-1222

San Simeon
Virg's San Simeon Landing (at the pier)
1 Old Highway One
San Simeon, CA 93452
(805) 927-4676