Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties
The Santa Barbara Channel is my very favorite section of California coastline. The coastal scenery is breathtaking, and the four islands comprising the Channel Islands National Park are stunning jewels set on the dazzling Pacific Ocean. From east to west, they are; Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel islands. Landing is restricted and regulated, but we're usually too busy catching fish to even think about going ashore. These islands see relatively little fishing pressure, and the result is a prolific and multi-faceted fishery featuring white Seabass, calico bass, halibut, lingcod, sheep head, whitefish, and rockfish, barracuda, bonito, and various sharks such as Makos, blues, and even great whites (now a protected species).
At the western end of the island chain is windswept San Miguel Island. When it can be fished comfortably, it becomes a total quality fish factory featuring truly bragging size fish in great abundance. This is the extreme southern range of the big Pacific Halibut (like the barn-doors they catch up in Alaska). They'll lay side by side with our more common California Halibut. San Miguel's neighboring island, Santa Rosa, is haunted by hoards of halibut. Drift fishing with live bait is a common method for targeting the flat ones, but a “bounce-balling” technique was developed in these waters and is used extensively by commercial and sport halibuteers. It involves a three way swivel with a leader to a heavy ball sinker, and another leader to a flasher blade and then to a hoochie with or without a whole squid. It is a very productive way to catch halibut and certainly warrants a future article.
The Channel Islands host some of the best white Seabass bites in all of California. Prime habitat and abundant squid (their favorite food) are key reasons. The gap between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands is a likely place to fish for them with live or frozen squid and white jigs.
Picture left: Mike Obert of Santa Barbara hefts an 8 lb calico bass and a 22 lb King Chinook Salmon. This is how good fishing can get in the Santa Barbara Channel.
The Santa Barbara Channel is California's calico capitol. Calico bass are a highly-prized inshore species available only to the sportfishing crowd. The commercial fishing fleet can't take them because that level of fishing pressure would wipe out the species. They are great fighters and a 4 or 5 pound calico will literally bulldog down into the kelp or rocks where they live and forage, making for a very challenging fight. They will eventually grow into the double-digit weight range. At that size, they are wily brutes which usually win grand battles with wild-eyed fishermen who can't believe a bass could do this to them. Calico special charters are popular throughout SoCal, but especially in the bass-rich waters of the Santa Barbara Channel.
King (Chinook) salmon move into the Channel during the springtime, proving what a wonderfully diverse fishery this area is. Private boaters and private-charter operators work together on the radio to find and catch these magnificent fish that are just as pleasing on a dinner table as on the end of a line.
Each of the harbors along the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties coastline are home to sportfishing landings and private charter operators who know these waters well. The Ventura County harbors along the eastern end of this magnificent Channel are Port Hueneme, Channel Islands Harbor, and Ventura Harbor. I operate my charter service from Santa Barbara Harbor, because it is the closest harbor to the wild west end of the Channel where the fishing get better with each westward mile traveled.
Ventura County Sportfishing
Oxnard - Channel Islands Harbor
Channel Islands Sportfishing (Cisco's)
Gold Coast Sportfishing
Harbor Village Sportfishing
Santa Barbara County Sportfishing
WaveWalker Charters (6-Pack, private-charter)