Anglers Await a Break in the Weather to Resume Fishing Activities
The beginning of the 2023 fishing season through the first two weeks of January can for the most part be summed up by talking about the recent bad weather that has brought a lot of days of rain, strong wind, and high seas. There is more rain forecasted to be coming over the next few days but then the extended forecast says that there may be a break in the string of storms toward the latter part of the month. There have been some boats out fishing during the brief breaks in the weather between storms, so I do have some recent news to report.
Prior to the string of recent storms, a lot of anglers were focused on the fishing for bluefin tuna and an assortment of rockfish that was going on out at the Tanner Bank. Boats had been finding pretty good numbers of 18-to-65-pound bluefin biting along with good numbers of rockfish. The bluefin at the Tanner Bank were biting best while fishing on the anchor in an area to the north and northeast of the high spot. Best baits were live squid, sardines, knife jigs and Flat Fall jigs.
It has been more than 2 weeks since anyone that I know of has given it a try for bluefin at the Tanner Bank. In looking at a sea surface temperature chart I see that the water temperature out by the Tanner Bank has dropped down into the 57-to-58-degree range after the string of recent storms. This cooling of the water may well have been enough to send the bluefin away from the Tanner Bank in search of areas with warmer water. One can only speculate until someone goes out and gives it a try.
There has not been much to report in the way of bluefin activity from other more local offshore areas with no one out looking with the recent bad weather. In looking at a sea surface temperature chart there is an area of relatively warm 60-to-61-degree water that runs from the area east of the 43 Fathom Spot on down and in to the area of the 302 Spot and this might be a zone where some bluefin might be found in the 60 to 61 degree water. The most recent reports of bluefin being caught in an area other than the Tanner Bank were where some long-range boats were catching some large bluefin while fishing 150 to 180 miles below Point Loma.
The other offshore fishing that had been producing occasional action before the recent bad weather was deep drop fishing for swordfish. I am thinking that someone might want to give the deep drop fishing for swordfish a try once the weather settles down in an effort to catch the first swordfish of 2023. The most recent reports of swordfish activity are now more than 2 weeks old but areas that were showing the best signs of holding swordfish prior to the recent series of storms were the 9 Mile Bank, 178 Spot, the Radar Dome at San Clemente Island, the 152 Spot off the East End of Catalina, the Avalon Bank and 3.5 to 8 miles off Newport Beach. A recent sea surface temperature chart shows an area of relatively warm 60-to-61-degree water in the region of the 178 Spot, the 9 Mile Bank, the 43 Fathom Spot, the 182 Spot, 224 Spot and 302 Spot. Those relatively “warm” water areas might be ones to try once the weather settles down.
Some sportboats have started to run 1.5-day trips to fish the Mexican Coast off the Punta Colnett region and they have been finding good bottom fishing along with a chance at some yellowtail. The bottom fishing in the Punta Colnett region is often highlighted by catches of quality sized lingcod and reds. Pegasus out of Fisherman’s Landing fished a recent trip to the Punta Colnett region and had 17 anglers on a 1.5-day trip catch 65 reds, 46 whitefish, 20 rockfish, 15 lingcod, 1 sheephead and 22 yellowtail. Try yo-yo iron or dropper loop fished sardines for the wintertime Punta Colnett yellowtail.
The fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been slow for surface fishing species with 58-to-60-degree water being reported. What has been good around the Los Coronado Islands is the bottom fishing for a variety of species that include reds, salmon grouper, an assortment of rockfish species, sculpin, whitefish, sheephead and a few lingcod.
The best area for reds, salmon grouper and rockfish has been at the hard bottom to the northwest and north of North Island in 25 to 50 fathoms. Also, productive has been the hard bottom at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in similar depths. One of the best zones for lingcod where there has also been some sculpin, whitefish and sheephead biting has been at the Rockpile in 18 to 23 fathoms.
With regard to the fishing along the San Diego County coast, anglers fishing above the Mexico border need to keep in mind that the annual seasonal rockfish/groundfish closure went into effect on the United States side of the Mexico border on January 1, 2023. This year’s closure period is a month longer than in recent years and runs through March 31, 2023. During the closure period anglers will need to travel into Mexican waters if they want to fish for the rockfish/groundfish species that are covered by the closure.
I suggest you go to the DFW website and familiarize yourself with the closure areas throughout the State of California and what are quite a few new rockfish/groundfish regulations for 2023. There is a December 20, 2022, news release that goes over upcoming changes that is entitled “New Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations Coming In The New Year.”
With the rockfish/groundfish closure now in effect anglers fishing along the San Diego County coast have turned their attention to species that remain open to fishing such as sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, whitefish, halibut, white seabass, and yellowtail. Prior to the string of recent storms there was sporadic yellowtail activity in the La Jolla region in the 18 to 31 fathom depths while in the area ranging from the outskirts of the upper part of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla on up to the Northwest Corner at the upper end of La Jolla.
Yellows have been located by finding meter marks, sonar marks and spots of breezing fish and the yellows are often found in areas where skippers are seeing or metering a lot of bait. Those that were fortunate enough to be at the right spot at the right time on the right day were catching an occasional 20-to-30-pound class yellowtail while using surface iron, yo-yo iron and dropper loop fished sardines or mackerel. Skippers will be keeping an eye on this zone once the weather clears.
When the weather has allowed fishing, productive hard bottom and structure areas for sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and whitefish listed from the south to the north include the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the north of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, Sunset Cliffs, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Leucadia, Carlsbad, the Anderson Pipeline, the Buccaneer Pipeline, the artificial reefs off Oceanside and Box Canyon.
Halibut fishing remains scratchy but if you want to give it a try, areas that might be likely to produce a halibut along the San Diego County Coast listed from south to north include Imperial Beach, the Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon shipwreck outside of Mission Beach, South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs off Oceanside.
White seabass fishing along the San Diego County coast has been slow but we are in a time of year where things could pick up with the arrival of lots of squid. Likely areas to produce a white seabass listed from south to north would be the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, the area below and outside of the Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, View Point, the Border Check Station and San Onofre.
The 2023 Southern California offshore fishing season has had a hard time getting untracked due to a recent string of January storms. Once the weather backs off, we should see more anglers back out on the water to be able to get a better feel for what might be around and biting and where. I am hoping that 2023 will bring lots of good weather and fun fishing your way. I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and kick off your 2023 fishing season sometime soon. Keep on fishing and I hope to see you out on the water!
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.