THE WHITE SEA BASS
White Sea Bass Spearfishing
The white sea bass can be fished in several ways. Inside caves, under the breaks, in the kelp forests, waiting… Let’s try to see each technique more specifically, and also the most suitable places.
Before getting started, let’s talk about the fish itself. It’s a predator, it can reach big sizes, over 15 kgs. The minimum size is 36 cm, but in spearfishing we should aim for fish bigger than that. The growth of this specie is slow. To have an idea, a 6 or 7 kgs white sea bass is older than 15 years old.
The white sea bass is not demanding with the quality of the water. We will find it in harbors, sewer pipes… Although people identify this fish with clean and wavy waters. Knowing this, we will be able to catch it in docks, in the breaks, in estuaries or in open the water. There is a story about one buddy who, after catching one in a dock, the fish threw up a rat.
As we can see, almost all the spots can be good for fishing it. It will depend more on the season and the conditions than on the spots.
When I was starting to fish, a good friend used to show me spots to go fishing with a set of air photographs of the coast. He used to point places: “there is white sea bass here, and here, and here…” We used to look at him shocked “we passed a lot of time around there and we have never seen any”. This good friend is Fernando Galmán, the owner of Solo Sub spearfishing store. After some time, and learning how to fish, I confirmed he was right. There was white sea bass on those spots, but we didn’t know how to fish them.
The reason of not seeing them is going during seasons that are not the right ones, and with wrong conditions. And we learn this from the experience. Although in this article we are going to explain some helpful key points.
It’s one of the factors with more influence in fishing and it will determine where we have to go. During the summer the water gets warm, and in Galicia and countries with kelp, in some spots, the kelp grows up. The opposite, during the winter, the water is clean and without shelters. It’s logical to think that they are not going to be in the same places.
So this is why a lot of times we can hear fishermen saying “this is a summer cave, this other is a winter cave…” And this is true. Let’s see season by season:
Winter: It’s the best season for the white sea bass in Galicia and north of Spain. We have to know that the white sea bass comes to spawn on this dates. It start coming already during December. The best months are January, February, March and April, and it is when we can find more number of them. The spawning gets place during these months (mainly the first ones). The female are full of eggs and the males are around them, It’s the perfect moment for spearfishing in caves.
The females look for areas with big rocks (or specific caves) in which they get shelter, with the males spinning around them, looking for a chance to spawn. It is the easiest moment to catch them. Big white sea bass, full caves and easy shots. As it always happens in the nature, when they are with “that” everything gets easier.
A lot of times, this spots can be easily identified because you can already see white sea basses spinning from the surface. The closer to the surface, the smaller the fish. And the bigger ones below. The females and the big males. Of course, in this cases we should avoid shooting the females. Always aim for the males. And not just for ethic reasons, but also for selfishness. If we kill the males and leave the females, everything will be the same on the day after, and we will be able to fish again. And the next day, and again the next one… Until the spawning ends. ¡And it can last more than one month! So, let’s choose the catches wisely, don’t burn out the caves and we will have fun for several days (and next years). But if we go there and shoot the biggest one, we will have a paunchy white sea bass, filled with eggs and all the other fish will run scared. And they won’t return to that spot. We do one single shoot and everything is gone (besides having killed a female before leaving the eggs. Any male can impregnate).
To find this good caves we need a lot of time in the water. In the fishing spots section, we leave small details to help you find them. It’s enough to pay a bit of attention and understand it (we can not tell you everything).
Fishing in the breaks on this season also gives good results, but is not as effective. Because the fish are busy “with other stuff”. And while they are in the caves, we won’t be successful in other areas.
But when the spawn ends, the activity increases. They are weak, without eating for a long time, or eating very little and they need to recover energy. Towards the end of the winter and beginning of the spring, the breaks are crowded. They go there to eat. Preferably with wavy seas and breaks that test the fitness and technique level of the fishermen. But it’s quite easy to get good catches. We will go to the more exposed areas and, with this technique, the success is almost granted.
The waiting technique starts to give good results.
Spring: April, May and June. Perfect months to fish in the breaks. Also, the kelp is starting to grow. This season goes between the end of March and after the kelp is fully grown. First of June. It also matches with the anticyclone and the continuous north-east winds (in Galicia)
As we said, the white sea bass will be recovering energy after the spawn and it will continue its migration. Because it is not here all the time. It goes moving around. The amount will be dropping and also the catches. Although, of course, not all of them leave. In other countries, northern ones like Ireland or UK at this time the numbers of white sea bass start increasing. The good season starts now.
It still will be possible to fish in the caves and using the other techniques, depending on the spot, but the most effective one will be stay shallow and close to the shore.
A different type of fishing that we are not covering is in the pinnacles, far from the coast. Or in underwater crests. That situation is different and we will address it on a specific section.
Summer: The kelp is high and we go into a different fishing style. A lot of spearfishers do their best catches on this period. The white sea bass will be resting between the kelp, being relatively easy to get a good one just by swimming in the surface and shooting from up. Although we will depend on the luck.
For this, the best is to fish inside the kelp forests (we have a specific article for this fishing style). We have to look for good spots, sheltered in which the white sea bass goes often. The experience showed us that there are a lot, not just one. It is just about looking for them and paying attention.
In this season, another technique which will be very effective is the waiting technique. Doing in the areas where the white sea basses move around, we will be able to get them, even big ones. The limits between kelp and sand and ‘stupid’ areas will give great results.
During the summer it’s true that the water gets warmer. Specially on the estuaries. It is also the season when there is more small fish together. These small fish are between the kelp in the estuaries, and behind them, you can see white sea bass trying to chase them. After eating they rest, almost immobile. So, these warm water areas, totally calmed, will be perfect for the sea bass. Even in just two or three meters of depth.
The best option is to wait in several points. Trying to cover all the area. And trying to discover where they can come from. It’s a slow and methodical technique, but if we do it right, it will give us good results. And the best thing is if we know how to fish them, once we find the spot, they will stay all summer there. So, just forget about going far to the middle of the sea. During the summer, the ‘stupid’ spots are often the best ones.
If we know the location of good caves, it’s possible to get good results from them during the summer. They love caves which are covered with kelp. For this, is needed to know the spots very well and have specific marks. A lot of times, it’s difficult to find these points, for this is important to know how to mark them and how to orientate ourselves.
Autumn: We go again into a season change. The kelp starts to break and the fish starts to get ready for the winter and a new spawning season. Besides that, there are some white sea bass which are already with eggs on this season. It’s a great moment to go again to the caves. And also between the kelp which it’s already broken.
It matches with the warmer waters of all year, and it is now strange to see good white sea bass groups in this season.
Specially in underwater crests and spots far away from the coast. Those will be the most effective places.
And when we start to get close to the winter, with the storms starting to show up, we change season again.
WAVES AND SWELL
According to the waves, we will have to look for the white sea bass in different ways. With calmed sea, we will focus in fishing in caves and waiting. In the breaks (almost non existent under these conditions) will be difficult to attack them properly. Due to this, it will be better on these points to do a slow wait/stalk. Trying to make them get close. Specially in the pinnacles and underwater crests.
In the caves and in the kelp forests (summer), or wait in deeper water, where we think we could find them, Spots with warm water, kelp, caves… We will have to rely on our knowledge about the spot and our experience.
However, with strong swells, it’s easier. We will go directly to the breaks. Shallow water and fast fishing. Going into those spots we think we could find them. Short waits will be very effective here also. It’s probably the easiest way to fish them but it’s needed to have a good technique and a good fitness level.
This fish don’t get as affected by the cold water as other ones. It will be there even under the worst conditions. The problem is that it makes the fishing difficult for us, because we have to suffer these conditions. Specially when we have to go a bit deep to find them. If there are waves we won’t have any problem, fast and shallow fishing. But when we have to find them in caves, on deep waters, it’s hard to do it with 12 degree temperatures or less.
With warm water, we will find them hunting (or doing the digestion). Spearfishing in the breaks, if there are, and if not, use the waiting technique in the kelp. Instead of saying that the white sea bass like warm water, we could say that it goes chasing its preys, small fish which like to follow this type of water.
We can find a signal of the presence of white sea bass in other animals. As a good predator, it chase them to feed itself.
We have seen in the estuaries, the young fish. Now we are going to see different species from the open waters. It likes a lot the common scad and the joey. In spots far away from the coast, open water, pinnacles… when we see schools of these fish, it’s interesting to wait, because it is highly probable that white sea bass will come (they are behind the other fish, chasing them)
The Polybius henslowii, the small swimming crab, are a feast for the white sea bass. When there are a lot of these, they are too full. Under these conditions we will have to look for them in the kelp forests or in caves. We will see their bellies hard and full of these animals. And it’s very difficult to find them eating or being active, because there is easy food everywhere. And the problem is if they feel like going into deep caves. Who is going to start looking for them in caves on depths greater than 20 meters?
Mullets: pay attention to these fish, because it is very common that the white sea bass moves in between them. We will use the waiting technique when we see them, paying attention to the middle and the sides of the school, because a lot of the times, they will be around there.
FISHING IN UNDERWATER CRESTS AND PINNACLES
The white sea bass likes these spots. Close to the coast as well as far away. The spots with deep falls which get shallow suddenly are very good, specially if there are also currents. Using the waiting technique on them we will get great catches.
Depending on the tide, we will look for them in different ways. It’s true that when the tide is high they are eating, and when it is low, they are resting or inside caves. But inside the estuaries or in underwater crests far from the coast, can be the opposite. It depends on each single spot.
There are several different conditions that affect this specie, but we would have to analyze them depending on each point and we can only get that from the experience. For this, is a must to accumulate a lor of in water hours and try to understand what happens there. Time of the day, for example, there are spots that give better results in the last hour. Other ones are better if you go in the morning… We will need to try over and over again and fill a logbook with our sessions.
We must have this very clear: with the white sea bass we have to be very selective and pacient. The big ones don’t come the first ones. And inside the caves, we can not rush, the best is always coming later. If we shoot the first we see, we will be missing the opportunity of getting something better.
When we see a school, the first ones coming are the small ones, after them, some a bit bigger and always like this. The best ones, always the smartest ones, will come the last. We are under the risk of loosing the opportunity, but we win chances of getting a big one.
We leave here a short video, showing different techniques to catch the white sea bass.