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White Seabass are probably the most prized inshore fish in Southern California. They are also a mysterious fish, usually biting only for a short time when certain conditions line up. Thanks to stocking programs they have made a tremendous comeback after nearly being fished out like their cousins the Totoaba in Mexico. They are usually caught in kelp beds near shore and at some of the Southern California islands such as Catalina and San Clemente and the Channel Islands. There is also a healthy population to be found in Northern Baja.
White Seabass can be very frustrating to chase most of the time, but other times they go on feeding binges where they wolf down baits and lures with abandon. This is one of those fish that you could spend a lifetime trying to figure out. They put up a decent fight and taste delicious. They are a hefty inshore fish, attaining a max weight of around 75lbs. The fish in the picture above was caught within casting distance of shore.
White Seabass have soft mouths and so you cannot crank down the drag too hard or you will lose some. 20-30lb test line is good; you can go heavier if you are fishing at night. An Accurate BX 400 or similar conventional reel will work well, and you can also tackle them with quality spinning gear such as a Daiwa Saltiga reel. Pair the reel with a good Calstar rod with a soft tip and you are ready to fish. These fish can be tricky to find. Sometimes, often early in the morning, they come in very close to the beach. Other times they are found in the kelp lines farther out and other times they go who knows where. When the squid are around the seabass are usually not far off. When they are feeding on Pacific Mackerel, particularly in Baja, they can often be found by looking for birds diving on bait that is driven up by the fish. The number one bait by far in Southern California is live squid. Number two would be fresh dead squid. They are fished either pinned on a jighead or on a dropper loop off the bottom. Depending on where the fish are you might want to suspend them under a bobber. Sometimes they are also caught using live Pacific Mackerel up here, and that is the number one bait in Baja. Another good trick is to cast a Krocodile spoon where there are mackerel, hook one, and then just leave it out there swimming around with the spoon until a White Seabass wolfs it down.They are very sensitive to moon phase. I personally would not go any other time although obviously they eat at other times as well. You can also target them with some success in Spring and early Summer in Southern California, especially if the squid are around. An overnight trip to Catalina Island or San Clemente Island can pay off big if you hit the conditions right.
White seabass are super popular off the coast of California but can also be found in other pockets around the Pacific Ocean. Any angler looking to add to their species list of catches will have a great time specifically targeting a big white sea bass, as the challenge can take a while and cause you to explore than you might otherwise. There are plenty of guides out there that can help you find them, as well as the tackle shops are wealths of knowledge when it comes to the different fish species and where to find them.