SAN DIEGO一 Southern California anglers continue to enjoy a mild winter with the first part of February providing numerous warm, sunny days with pleasant sea conditions. Fishing continues to provide various fun options for anglers to choose what kind of fish to target during a day out on the water.
Along the San Diego County coast, there has been a chance at catching prize yellowtail, white seabass, or halibut along with good mixed bag fishing for calico bass, sand bass, and sculpin. Mexican waters also offer rockfish, reds, and lingcod during the two-month rockfish/groundfish closure in the U.S. Good news, is that the rockfish/groundfish closure in U.S. waters will soon be coming to an end on March 1.
Weekends have seen sport boats on 1.5-day and 2.5-day trips running down to the Mexican coast to fish the Punta Colnett area. They have found very good mixed bag fishing for reds, rockfish, lingcod, and occasional yellowtail or bonito. Fish counts from the most recent trips start with Tribute out of Seaforth Sportfishing with 31 anglers on a 1.5-day trip who caught 133 reds, 71 rockfish, 86 whitefish, and 20 lingcod. Fisherman’s Landing had Liberty out on a 1.5 day trip with 35 anglers who caught 100 rockfish, 160 reds, 3 lingcod, 2 sheephead, and 2 yellowtail. Relentless out of H&M Landing was out on a 2.5-day trip and they had 19 anglers who caught 340 rockfish, 32 lingcod, and 3 bonito.
Punta Colnett area yellowtail have been running 10 to 20 pounds and the yellowtail bites tend to come from locating meter marks or sonar marks and then fishing with yo-yo iron or with live baits that are dropped down to the meter marks using a dropper loop rig. Salas 6X Jr. and Salas 6X jigs in the blue and white color combination have been good choices for yo-yo iron. An additional report said yo-yo jigs in a “reddish-brown” color were working well for lingcod.
I do not know of bluefin tuna being caught offshore from Punta Colnett lately but there have been some second-hand reports about there being bluefin found outside of the 500-fathom curve out westerly from Punta Colnett. The last confirmed bluefin catches came from this zone a few weeks ago when a few bluefin in the 30 to 40-pound range were caught.
Boats fishing in Mexican waters around Los Coronado Islands are still finding good fishing for rockfish, reds, salmon grouper, whitefish, and an occasional lingcod. There have been a few private boaters out looking for yellowtail around Los Coronado Islands but the yellowtail fishing has been slow.
The New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing and the Malihini out of H&M Landing have regularly been running trips into Mexican waters to fish for rockfish species around Los Coronado Islands during the rockfish closure. The most recent trip on New Seaforth posted a fish count of 32 anglers on an extended half-day trip who caught 265 assorted rockfish. The most recent trip on Malihini out of H&M Landing was a three-quarter day trip where 29 anglers caught 27 reds, 26 whitefish, and 120 rockfish.
A productive zone for the rockfish fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been the hard bottom to the north and northwest of North Island. I also got a recent report from a private boater that went exploring to try the fishing at some hard bottom areas out to the southwest of South Island and the fishing in that sector was reported to be just fair.
A good depth range for the rockfish fishing has been in 30 to 50 fathoms but there has also been good bottom fishing to be found in deeper water. Seaforth Sportfishing has been suggesting that anglers be prepared to fish deep water by bringing tackle that includes some 16 to 20-ounce sinkers and an outfit capable of fishing those 16 to 20-ounce sinkers at depths down to 800 feet (133 fathoms).
There are occasional showings of yellowtail reported outside of Pacific Beach, the upper end of La Jolla and Torrey Pines. The showings of yellowtail have been erratic and unpredictable from day to day but if you are there when some yellows decide to show you have a chance at hooking quality-sized yellowtail.
Yellowtail has been located by finding spots of breaking fish or meter marks. The best chance at locating yellowtail has been to find schools of bait or spots of working birds. A good depth to be looking in has been in 18 to 32 fathoms. If an area is looking fishy with birds and bait Skippers tend to stay with that life in the hope that some yellowtail will eventually show up chasing the bait. The mid-morning hours between 8:30-10:30 a.m. tend to be the best for finding yellowtail activity. The best yellowtail catch reported in recent days was from a private boater who caught three yellowtail.
When yellows are located they have been biting best on iron with surface iron and yo-yo iron both being productive. Good choices for yo-yo iron have been Salas 6X Jr. and Salas 6X jigs in the blue and white color combination. Good choices for surface iron have been Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in the blue and white color combination and in sardine colors.
Most of the fishing along the San Diego County coast during the cold water months of the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure is focused on calico bass, sand bass, and sculpin by fishing hard bottom and structure spots. The Imperial Beach Pipeline and the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 off Point Loma continue to be a couple of the best areas in the San Diego region for mixed bag fishing. Other productive hard bottom and structure spots that have been producing a mixed bag of fish are the Lighthouse Ridge off the Point Loma Lighthouse, the Jetty Kelp hard bottom outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp hard bottom off Pacific Beach, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and Box Canyon.
The halibut fishing has been scratchy overall but there was a recent catch of 3 halibut made off Imperial Beach aboard Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing. They had 27 anglers on an extended half-day trip who caught 3 halibut, 10 sand bass, 14 sculpin, 8 halibut, and 6 sand bass that were released. On another trip the week before Dolphin also posted a fish count that included 3 halibut.
Areas you might want to try to catch a halibut, are the sandy bottom around the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the area outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck, the sandy bottom next to the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs off Oceanside.
An ongoing reminder is that anglers need to keep in mind that the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure went into effect in U.S. waters on Jan. 1. The closure will run through Feb. 28 and during the two-month closure period, anglers need to travel into Mexican waters if they want to fish for the various rockfish/groundfish species that are covered by the closure. During the closure period anglers fishing in U.S. waters target species that are not covered by the closure such as calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, halibut, yellowtail, and white seabass.
The good weather days have been providing the best fishing and wise anglers will watch the marine weather forecast closely and pick the good weather days to go out on the water and go 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.