A nice trio of WSB caught on the backside of Catalina Island. All three fish were hooked within a few seconds of each other after a long, slow morning without even a bite.

Salt-water anglers in SoCal know it's springtime when the white seabass start to feed heavily at our islands and along our coast. These normally shy and wary members of the croaker family seem to lose all caution during their "spawning rut" which begins around March and ends around June. At this time they are easy targets for sport and commercial anglers along our coast. Because of this fact our Department of Fish and Game has placed a "1-fish per angler" rule for all sport anglers. They must also exceed 28 inches in length to be kept. As a result of strict regulation, the banning of near shore gill nets in the late '80's and several hatchery programs, the white seabass - once considered a "rare" catch - has rebounded dramatically and is now a popular game fish in Southern California.
As with any fishing, there are always three important factors necessary to a productive trip: right time, right place and having the right presentation. In the following chapters, I'll try to cover these key factors to the best of my knowledge.
Right Time
Simply put, this just means having a bait in the water at a time when the fish wants to feed. However, predicting when this fish wants to feed is not so simple at all. As stated earlier, the prime time to target these fish is during their "spawning rut" from March through June. During this time these fish expend a great deal of energy producing eggs and seeking out spawning beds. As a result, their appetites drive them to lose their normally cautious nature and they are much more likely to take an offering with a hook attached. With that being said, you would think it's just a wide-open bite from March through June but any experienced angler can tell you otherwise. These fish seem to go into feeding "spurts" that may last a day or up to a week. And within those days that they do bite well, It's usually only for a few hours of the day.. or night. Predicting when this will "happen" is probably the toughest part to catching these fish. I have noticed though, a lot of bites turn on when the current changes direction. If you are sitting at anchor and notice the boat suddenly change direction after holding a position for a while, that's a good indication to get some fresh baits out in the water 'cause the bite may just turn on! Another thing I have noticed is that they will usually develop a pattern over a period of days. It may be an afternoon bite from 1 to 3pm one week and then switch to a 4 am only bite the next. It's always a good idea to find out when the bite was "happening" the day before and concentrate your fishing during that period.
Right Place
Another very simply put term - being where the fish are at. White seabass are kelp lovers and are usually found near kelp beds. They are sometimes also found in open water over sandy bottom areas, but most are caught near - but not necessarily in - kelp beds. Knowledge of local hot spots comes with time spent on the water but some of the most popular areas are the Channel Islands, the backside of Catalina Island from the West End to Ben Westin Pt., San Clemente Island at Pyramid Cove and coastal areas such as Pt Fermin or La Jolla. These spots mentioned are certainly no secret, you will see anywhere from a few to several hundred boats fishing these areas on any given day during the season.
During their spawning rut, white seabass are usually found in water from 40 ft to as shallow as 8 ft. I have noticed some very good spots have been hard pebble beaches located near - kelp beds. Sometimes the spot can be a 20x20 foot section of water that will produce fish after fish while other boats all around will go blank! Having confidence in the area you are fishing is key to catching white seabass. You can sometimes sit in a spot all day long and catch nothing - then all of a sudden everybody is limited out within a couple of minutes. They key is definitely spending time on the water and getting to know an area well.
Right Presentation
This one is pretty easy. White seabass love live squid. Yes, you can catch them on artificials and other baits but if you want to seriously target these fish you need to have live squid. Either purchase it from bait receivers or direct from "squid boats" or you can spend the night trying to catch your own with a lamp and squid jigs. It's no coincidence that some of the most popular WSB areas are also some of the most popular squid-catching areas. So now that we have our live squid we want to use a size 2/0 hook with 20-30 pound test line and a small 1/2 to 3/4 ounce egg sinker that is allowed to slide right down to the hook. This is your typical WSB live squid rig. Sometimes when the bite is hot you can target a larger model fish with a white iron jig with one or two squid attacheded to the hook. Other times you must finesse a lively squid on #15 test in order to get a bite. If live squid is not available, frozen will sometimes work as will live sardines, anchovies and small mackerel. Some WSB are also taken incidentally by anglers targeting sand or calico bass with plastic swim baits and also on iron jigs from anglers fishing for barracuda. But if you want to seriously target the elusive WSB, you need to have the candy bait - live squid.