SAN DIEGO一 Spring is coming on March 20 and Southern California anglers are keeping an eye on the surface fishing that they hope will improve with the arrival of spring if not before. In the meantime, many anglers will be celebrating the end of the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure in U.S./California waters by going out fishing on or after the March 1 “opener” to have the fun of being one of the first to drop baits down to bottom fish species that have not been fished since Dec. 31, 2021.
During the two-month closure period, anglers have been traveling to Mexican waters to fish for the rockfish/groundfish species that are covered by the closure. Boats on 1.5-day trips have been traveling to the Punta Colnett region and have been doing very well on reds, whitefish, rockfish, sheephead, and lingcod along with some flurries of bonito and an occasional yellowtail.
Seaforth Sportfishing had a recent trip aboard Tribute fishing a 1.5-day trip to Punta Colnett that had 32 anglers return with 43 lingcod, 139 reds, 62 rockfish, 52 whitefish, 2 sheephead, 1 sculpin, and 21 bonito. Liberty out of Fisherman’s Landing also fished a recent 1.5-day trip and returned with a catch of 135 reds, 130 rockfish, 10 lingcod, 7 sheephead, and 20 bonito.
When Punta Colnett yellowtail are located they have been running from 10 to 20 pounds. 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. Yo-yo jigs in a “reddish-brown” color have been reported to be working well for lingcod.
Closer to San Diego, boats out on three-quarter day and extended half-day trips that have wanted to fish for the bottom fish species covered by the rockfish/groundfish closure in U.S./California waters have been traveling into Mexican waters to fish around Los Coronado Islands. The fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been good and has been producing a mix of reds, salmon grouper, whitefish, rockfish, and an occasional lingcod.
A productive zone for the bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been the hard bottom to the north and northwest of North Island and a good depth range has been in 30 to 50 fathoms with depths down to 130-plus fathoms reported to be productive.
New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing and Malihini out of H&M Landing have been running trips into Mexican waters from San Diego Bay and Mission Bay to fish for rockfish species. The most recent trip on New Seaforth had 24 anglers on an extended half-day trip catch 200 rockfish. The most recent trip on Malihini was a three-quarter day trip where 14 anglers caught 20 reds, 15 salmon grouper, and 52 rockfish.
There have been no recent reports about yellowtail or other surface fish biting around Los Coronado Islands. Earlier in the winter season, there were occasional showings of yellowtail reported around North Island and over hard bottom into the northeast of North Island.
Along the San Diego County Coast, boats will start fishing for reds, salmon grouper, rockfish, whitefish, and lingcod when the two-month annual rockfish/groundfish closure comes to an end on March 1. Hard bottom areas off of the San Diego County coast that Skippers will want to try are listed from the south to the north and include the International Reef, the Whistler Buoy off Point Loma, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, The 270 located to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, and Box Canyon.
There have been occasional showings of yellowtail outside of Pacific Beach, the upper end of La Jolla and Torrey Pines. The showings of yellowtail remain erratic and unpredictable from day to day but if you are there when yellowtail decide to show you have a chance at hooking a nice-sized fish. There was a recent report of yellowtail being metered around porpoises that were found outside of the upper end of La Jolla and there was also a recent report of a 24-pound yellowtail being caught close to the kelp line at the upper end of La Jolla.
Yellowtail has been located by finding spots of breaking fish or meter marks and the best chance at locating some yellows has been to locate schools of bait or spots of working birds off Pacific Beach, the upper end of La Jolla, or Torrey Pines. A good depth range has been 18 to 30 fathoms with there also being a chance at finding yellowtail activity in shallower water along the kelp line. If an area is looking fishy with birds and bait Skippers tend to want to stay with that life in the hope that yellowtail will come up and start working the bait.
Most yellowtail bites have come 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 sardine colors and in blue and white.
There are occasional reports of white seabass activity along the San Diego County coast. Most reports have come from boats fishing the region off Camp Pendleton outside of the Barn Kelp. There was also a report of there being some recent white seabass activity outside of the Green Tank at Point Loma.
While the rockfish/groundfish closure has been in effect, anglers fishing above the U.S./Mexico border have been fishing for species such as calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, halibut, yellowtail, and white seabass with most of the catch being made up of a mix of calico bass, sand bass, and sculpin.
Hard bottom and structure spots have been providing most of the bass and sculpin with the Imperial Beach Pipeline and the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 off Point Loma being the best areas in the San Diego region. 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.
Halibut fishing remains difficult in most areas but there was a recent report of a good halibut bite being found by a boat fishing the Silver Canyon and V’s region off the backside of Catalina. There was also a report about a 35-plus pound halibut being caught above Dana Point in the Salt Creek region.
In San Diego County waters there continues to be an occasional legal-sized halibut caught by boat fishing places such as the sandy bottom around the Imperial Beach Pipeline, outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, San Diego Bay, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, 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.
Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing has been spending some time focusing on halibut fishing in recent weeks and has a halibut derby going on Wednesdays when they run an extended half-day trip. Last Wednesday, Dolphin had a fish count of 21 anglers on an extended half-day trip catching 1 halibut, 4 sand bass, 16 sculpins, and 7 halibut that were released.
The spring surface fishing season is not far away, but until we start seeing more surface fishing activity there is plenty of fun fishing to be found for a wide variety of species that include a chance at white seabass or yellowtail. 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.