This is my favorite time of year for fishing the Santa Barbara Channel because of the long periods of glassy flat water when a trip to the islands seems like a short comfortable run. Water temps are still up and the food chain is very active. Summer gamesters are still around, winter fish are beginning to bite well, and tuna show up well offshore.
The best albacore bite along the California coast, during some years, is outside of San Miguel Island near the Rodriguez Seamount. Whispering the word “albacore” is enough to send scores of wild-eyed anglers scurrying to sea. These are great fish, promising a valiant fight and excellent table fare.
White seabass are found throughout reef zones in 50 to 150 foot depths at this time of year. When the squid begin spawning however, seabass will congregate around the squid and feed like crazy. It is wise to keep tabs on the commercial squid fleet, by watching for the light boats and seiners, and then fish areas where they concentrate. The best time to fish is at night. Jig up some live squid and send it right back down to the lower third of the water column on a large hook with a sliding sinker. If the live squid wont bite, fish with whole frozen squid pinned to a white jig.
Halibut are quite active at mid-depths – say 50 to 75 feet of water. Drift fishing and bounce-balling are still the two common methods to target the flatties. Sandy or muddy areas are the best place to try, but don’t shy away from reefs. Halibut like to lie in the sand right next to a reef, or in a sandy slot in the reef and ambush small fish that wander by.
Calico bass go on wild feeding binges during the Autumn, because conditions are perfect and there is plenty of food available. This is a great time to work the shallow reefs and kelp-filled coves along the Channel Islands. These spots are loaded with big hungry bass, as well as a multitude of other fish. Between the stunning island views and the hungry fish, this is a fun way to spend a day.
Late in Autumn, lingcod once again begin moving up from deeper water to spawn and feed. Rockfish are truly available all year long on the deeper structure zones. These fish set the stage for the coming winter when our calendar of great fishing opportunities begins anew.