Summer is not far away, but Southern California offshore anglers are already enjoying “summer-like” fishing with 18 to 220-plus pound bluefin tuna, 5-to-12-pound yellowtail, and 6-to-12-pound bonito biting. It continues to be a fine spring fishing season and anglers are hoping that species such as yellowfin tuna, dorado, and striped marlin arrive and join the party during the upcoming summer and fall months.
Bluefin tuna have been and continue to be the highlight species for trips venturing offshore and the past week has seen the best bluefin bites coming from the offshore waters outside of Ensenada. There has been good fishing found around the 385 Spot, in the area ranging from the southwest over to northwest of Todos Santos Island and the area out to the west and southwest of the 295 Bank. This has anglers fishing in an area ranging from 50 to 60 miles and 155 to 185 degrees from Point Loma.
Bluefin have been biting during daylight hours but the best bluefin bites have often come during the dark, with the 2 hours before daylight often providing the best fishing of the 24-hour day. The best methods have been fishing meter marks and sonar marks with 4-ounce torpedo sinker rigged live sardines and with Flat Fall jigs. The Flat Fall jigs tend to work best during the dark and the torpedo sinker rigged fished live sardines tend to work best during the daylight hours.
Private boater Marcus Hale of Cabrilla fished a recent trip targeting bluefin and reported catching bluefin of 120 pounds, 70 pounds, and 40 pounds. This action was found while working around the 385 Spot outside of Ensenada which is 56 miles 166 degrees from Point Loma. Hale said they caught the 40-pound bluefin during the dark and caught the 70-pound and the 120-pound bluefin during daylight hours. The bluefin were biting best for them on sinker rigged sardines while drifting in areas where they found meter marks. The water where they were locating bluefin was running 64 to 65 degrees and was blue.
Private boater Ray Millman of Go The Distance reported about fishing for bluefin while on a recent 1.5-day trip aboard Pegasus out of Fisherman’s Landing. He said they had a great trip and the fish count was 17 anglers catching their limits of 34 bluefin tuna. Millman reported that the bluefin they caught ranged in size from 18 to 180 pounds and he said they were biting on Flat Fall jigs and sardines. His report was that Flat Fall jigs clearly worked best during the dark and that they caught bluefin on Flat Fall jigs and on sinker rigged sardines during daylight hours.
Millman’s report was that most of their fish came from stopping on sonar marks and meter marks and said that in the afternoon that they had some bluefin stops that came from stopping and chumming alongside “shiner” spots of bluefin. Shiner spots of bluefin are spotted by seeing the sunlight reflecting off the sides of the fish while they are grouped up right near the surface. He said that when fishing the shiner spots of bluefin that they also were able to hook a few bluefins on fly-lined sardines that would get bit when they would first come to a stop alongside the school of bluefin. Millman very much enjoyed the trip and had nothing but praise for the Pegasus and its Captain and Crew.
Boat fishing areas within 40 miles or so of Point Loma have sometimes been scratching out a few bluefin but have mostly been catching a mix of big bonito and yellowtail around offshore banks ranging from the 182 Spot on down to the Upper Hidden Bank. There was also a recent report from the Catalina area of some yellowtail biting from a kelp paddy found around the 277 Spot off the East End of Catalina.
Private boater Tom Parnakian of Ambush reported about fishing some of the local offshore banks outside of the Coronados aboard a recent full-day trip on Grande out of H&M Landing. They had a fish count of 33 anglers catching 108 bonito and 1 yellowtail. Parnakian said they found great bonito fishing on fish that were mostly in the 8-to-10-pound range. Flylined sardines were working best and he said that taking the time to choose a hot and lively sardine for your hook while selecting a bait at the bait tank helped in getting bonito strikes. All the kelp paddies they stopped on were empty and he said that the one yellowtail they caught was caught in the middle of a stop where they were catching bonito. Parnakian very much enjoyed the trip and had nothing but good things to say about the Grande, its Captain, and Crew.
Boats fishing Los Coronado Islands have been reporting good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, bonito, barracuda, calico bass, and an assortment of bottom fish species such as reds, rockfish, whitefish, and sculpin. The yellowtail fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been scratchy but there has been some yellowtail around and biting. Productive yellowtail areas have been the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, and the Lighthouse at the south tip of South Island.
Yellowtail have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks, spots of fish up on the surface, trolling strikes on deep diving Rapalas, and trolling strikes on slow trolled sardines. Good choices for surface iron work well for yellowtail and barracuda include Salas 7X lights and Tady 45’s in blue and white, mint and sardine colors.
The Middle Grounds has been the best zone for a mixed bag catch and bonito have been biting best off the weather side of North Island. Good places to try for calico bass have been the South Kelp, the Ribbon Kelp, the north end of South Island, the backside of South Island, the Middle Grounds, and Pukey Point at North Island.
The bottom fishing around Los Coronados continues to be good and some of the best spots have been at the hard bottom to the northwest and north of North Island in 30 to 50 fathoms.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of rockfish, reds, whitefish, sculpin, sand bass, and calico bass. There has also been an occasional bonus lingcod, yellowtail, barracuda, or halibut biting along with an occasional flurry of action for 6-to-12-pound bonito.
The yellowtail fishing along the San Diego area coast continues to be slow but there was a recent flurry of yellowtail activity a few days ago when New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing had 3 yellowtail within their catch on their morning half-day trip.
The best area for a chance at a yellowtail continues to be outside of the upper end of La Jolla. There have been occasional showings of yellowtail off La Jolla and if you are fortunate enough to be at the right spot at the right time when some yellows decide to show, there has been a chance at hooking a quality 15-to-25-pound fish. Surface iron, yo-yo iron, and slow trolled mackerel have been good choices for yellowtail with surface iron usually working best when cast to breaking fish.
Calico bass have been providing the best surface fishing along the San Diego area coast and the kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla have been best for the calicos. Other productive kelp bed areas for calico bass have been off the Green Tank at Point Loma, off Point Loma College, off the Roundhouse at Sunset Cliffs, at the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the kelp off Leucadia, and the kelp off South Carlsbad.
There have been occasional showings of 6-to-12-pound bonito for boats fishing the area between Point Loma and the 9 Mile Bank. The most recent report was that bonito were biting well in an area where there were lots of schools of anchovies out 5 miles 240 to 260 degrees off Point Loma. A good depth range to be looking to find bonito in this zone has been in 40 to 50 fathoms. The bonito are usually marked by working birds and have been biting on trolled feathers, trolled Rapalas, fly-lined sardines, surface iron, and small chrome jigs.
Productive hard bottom and structure areas for the reds, rockfish, whitefish, and lingcod are the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the International Reef, the Whistler Buoy and the Dropoff outside of Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, “The 270” out to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, the ridge outside of Del Mar and at hard bottom areas off South Carlsbad, Leucadia and Box Canyon.
It remains a scratchy spring season of halibut fishing but there are occasional halibut being caught. A recent report from a private boater fishing in San Diego Bay was that they caught two legal-sized halibut while fishing alongside Point Loma. Places, where occasional halibut have been reported in recent weeks, have been San Diego Bay, outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, outside of South Ponto Beach, the Buccaneer Pipeline, and the artificial reefs off Oceanside.
Summer arrives on June 20, but you do not have to wait for summer to enjoy “summer-like” fishing. Keep on fishing and I hope to see you out on the water sometime soon!
Bob Vanian is the voice, writer, and researcher of the San Diego-based internet fish report service called 976-Bite which can be found at www.976bite.com. Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service over the telephone at (619) 226-8218. He always welcomes your fish reports at that same phone number or at email@example.com.