California bluewater hunters prize the elusive and tasty white seabass more than any other local gamefish . Seeming to appear from nowhere , these fish require a skillful approach . The key to hunting them is learning just how close you can get before they bolt , disappearing in a blur .
The California Fish and Game Department limit is three fish daily except for the period March 15 through June 15 , when the limit is one . White seabass populations had been on the decline , but there is now good news for white seabass fishermen .
A freediver may spend years stalking through kelp forests before encountering his first white seabass , perhaps glimpsing a tail vanishing into the edge of visibility . This fish is spooky ! With their keen sight and hearing , white seabass can often sense a diver and scoot before ever appearing in the hunter ’ s visual range . Huge schools of white seabass used to proliferate off the coast of Southern California and Northern Baja California . Spotter planes reported seeing acres of kelp forest turned whitish yellow due to the high fish concentrations there .
Two important initiatives are helping to bring white seabass back into our waters . Proposition 132 , which passed in 1990 and became law in 1993 , has prohibited the very destructive practice of gillnetting white seabass in near-shore waters . White seabass schools , which travel at
night , were easy prey as they swam into these deadly nets . In addition , the Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute , aided by the United Anglers of Southern California , recreational dive clubs and angling clubs , manages a program for the propagation and distribution of juvenile white seabass . Small fry are spawned and reared at Hubbs ’ labs in San Diego . When they are large enough to transport , the small fish are taken to volunteer-manned grow out pens set up in Southern California harbors . At the lab , a small , needle-sized identification wire is introduced under the skin overlying their gills , which allows scientists to track these fish as they grow and are eventually caught . A special scanner reads the fish ’ s data from the identification wire . Thanks to these two programs , freedivers are seeing increased numbers of white seabass off our coast .
Juvenile white seabass live behind the surf-line in drift algae . Older fish ( over four inches ) occupy bays and shallow coastal waters . From there they mature in deeper coastal waters , usually not more than 350 feet deep . Some fish reach five feet in length and live for 20 years . A 28-inch fish ( the legal length for possession ) is about five years old . Spending the winter months hunting squid in deeper water , spawning fish move into the kelp beds between March and October . The peak months are May , June and July .