Bait ball hopping

Bob Perrycommon dolphins, Condor Express, humpback whales, Mola mola (ocean sunfish), Santa Barbara Channel

Surface lunge-feeding. iPhone photography by Captain Eric.

Monday, August 29, 2016 – Captain Eric and his “ojos de águila” deckhand Auggie, went bait ball hopping and found a mother lode of at least 10 (closely watched) humpback whales and 1,000 or more long-beaked common dolphins out off Campus Point. Sea conditions were good but got worse the further west the Condor Express went. Here are the glorious details:

The strategy was simple. Run west along the 50-fathom curve (where a lot of hot spots have been developing over recent times) and make headway in that direction before the wind and swells became too uncomfortable. Fortunately the numerous dolphin-infested bait balls soon produced three humpback whales, then two more came along There were plenty more bait balls and tall spouts to the west.

This was not a problem since the boat was literally surrounded by humpback whales with average down times of only 2 minutes. Moving west, Auggie spotted some tail-slapping in the near distance, alongside thousands of sea birds and sea lions. This spot produced several additional humpbacks and we were fortunate to find more and more whales by “bait ball hopping. Many of the whales cruised by the Condor Express closely, and were duly adored by their fan club.

Another curious thing took place in addition to bait ball hopping. Several whales repeatedly dove under the bait ball, released a bubble stream, then shot up through the roiling mass of fish with mouths open. This bubble net fishing is only seen on rare occasions in the Santa Barbara, being much more common in Alaskan waters from what I’ve heard.
A single ocean sunfish or Mola mola was also encountered.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
Bob Perry
Condor Express