LocalFish Rap

Anglers Have Lots of Good Fishing to Target in the Aftermath of Tropical Storm Hilary

It was about 12 days ago that Tropical Storm Hilary moved through Southern California bringing strong winds, thunderstorms, high seas and lots of rain.  After the passing of the storm, one of the things that was on the mind of a lot of anglers was what effect the high winds, high seas and massive amounts of runoff from the rain would have on the ocean water conditions and the fishing in offshore waters, at Los Coronado Islands, along the San Diego County coast and elsewhere.

The answer to the question of how Hilary would affect the offshore fishing is that it has had very little effect and that the fishing remains good for a mix of bluefin tuna, dorado, yellowfin tuna and yellowtail.  The region of the Tanner Bank has been the best for the large bluefin on fish to 200-plus pounds but the fishing out that way has been erratic the past 2 days. The bluefin bite at the Tanner Bank had slowed the past couple of days but has got back on track and has rallied today. Also new on the bluefin front is that good numbers of 30 to 100 pound bluefin have moved into an area 3 to 6 miles off the coast between Solana Beach and Box Canyon.

Captain Joe Cacciola of the Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reported that the Chubasco II from the Oceanside Sea Center was out on a three-quarter day trip yesterday and said they caught a bunch of rockfish, some whitefish and a lingcod during the morning and then went offshore to do some exploring for tuna and dorado. They were pleasantly surprised at what they found offshore in locating spots of breaking bluefin tuna that were eating anchovies while 4 to 5 miles off the coast between Solana Beach and South Carlsbad. They were able to get one of the spots of breaking bluefin off the anchovies they were feasting on and hooked one bluefin on a sardine and 2 on surface iron. They landed the 30 pound bluefin that bit the flylined sardine and ended up loosing the 2 bluefin that bit the surface iron.

What is great is that this influx of bluefin that started yesterday has followed through to today with lots of spots of breaking bluefin being reported by boats fishing 3 to 8 miles off the coast between Carlsbad and Box Canyon. The bluefin are biting pretty well today and are being hooked on small sized flylined sardines, medium sized flylined sardines and surface iron. Other areas that have also been producing some bluefin since Hilary passed through are the 9 Mile Bank, 43 Fathom Spot, the Corner, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot and the 182 Spot.

In addition to a chance at bluefin tuna, there is also good fishing going on for a mix of yellowfin tuna, dorado and yellowtail at areas within 40 miles or so of Point Loma such as the 43 Fathom Spot, the Corner, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the Upper Hidden Bank, the 182 Spot and the 9 Mile Bank. Further up the coast the 181 Spot and the area 3 to 8 miles off the coast between South Laguna and Point San Mateo are seeing some improved yellowfin activity with a few dorado also a possibility around the 181 Spot. A recent private boater report from the 9 Mile Bank was of finding lots of bait in 68 degree off color water and catching limits of small dorado and a small bluefin tuna.

Kelp paddies, porpoise schools, trolling strikes, spots of breaking fish, meter marks and sonar marks have been leading to the dorado, yellowfin, bluefin and yellowtail with sardines, flying fish (for bluefin), Colt Snipers, knife jigs and surface iron working well for bait once some fish are located.

Striped marlin have been biting well at times with the waters around Catalina Island being the best for a chance at a marlin.  The past several days have seen the best bite area be around the eastern part of Catalina Island for boats working areas ranging from right outside of Avalon over to being in the area to the south of Church Rock at the East End. There were a lot of boats fishing for marlin over the past “weekend” of Friday, Saturday and Sunday and my estimate is that there were 15 marlin caught and released over the 3 days of fishing. The area of 1 to 3 miles off the Slide, Seal Rocks and the East End Light has been the best with a few tailers and feeders showing but with most of the hookups coming from fish that are raised to the jigs on the troll.

The surface fishing around Los Coronado Islands has not received much attention lately due to the good fishing for dorado, yellowtail, yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna that has been going on in nearby offshore waters, but the few recent reports have been that the surface fishing has yet to rebound to the levels of surface fishing activity that were going on before Tropical Storm Hilary moved through. The most recent reports are that the good surface fishing for what had been a mix of yellowtail, calico bass, barracuda and tuna has slowed considerably with the exception of a recent report of good calico bass fishing.

Private boater Doug Rubin of the Sueno reported about fishing at the Coronados at midweek. Rubin reported seeing some spots of yellowtail up working on the surface while fishing at the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island but could not get them to bite. Good news was that Rubin was able to catch limits of calico bass in that same zone. He contrasted the fishing he had at mid-week post-Hilary to the fishing he found at the Coronados the week before Hilary moved through when they were able to catch limits of yellowtail and limits of calico bass. In addition to the good calico bass fishing encouraging news from Rubin’s report was that they saw some yellowtail which could start biting better sometime soon.

Sardines and surface iron have worked well for barracuda and yellowtail with yo-yo iron such as a Salas 6X or 6X Jr. also being worth a try for the deeper water yellowtail off North Island or for working the deeper water around the Rockpile. Tady 45 or Salas 7 X light jigs in blue and white, mint or sardine colors should be good choices for surface iron for the yellowtail and barracuda. Also worth a try for yellowtail or tuna has been to troll X-Rap Rapalas when looking around for something to stop on and fish with sardines or iron.

The bottom fishing around the Coronados remains very good for a mix of reds, rockfish and whitefish along with a chance at a bonus lingcod. The best areas for the mixed bag bottom fishing have been to the northwest, north and northeast of North Island in 25 to 60 fathoms.

Prior to the arrival of Tropical Storm Hilary, the fishing along the San Diego County coast had been good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, reds, sculpin, whitefish, sheephead and an assortment of rockfish species and was also producing an occasional yellowtail, white seabass, halibut, barracuda or bonito. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Hilary the surface fishing has slowed to where most boats are currently focusing their fishing efforts on bottom fishing. The bottom fishing has been good with a mix of reds, rockfish, sculpin and whitefish biting along with a few bonus sand bass or calico bass. It is logical that the fishing along the coast is taking longer to recover from the effects of Tropical Storm Hilary due to all the runoff water from the large amounts of rain. Hopefully currents will soon move the off color water away and replace the off color water with clean water that will help spark the surface fishing along the coast.

Captain Joe Cacciola of the Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reports that the water temperature dropped into the 62-to-64-degree range after Hilary passed through and says that the water is still off color due to runoff and upwelling. He says that the good calico bass fishing they were enjoying prior to Hilary has yet to rebound but says that they are catching good numbers of assorted shallow water rockfish and whitefish from working hard bottom areas in the 150 to 300 foot depths.

There has been little yellowtail activity at La Jolla in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Hilary and the calico bass fishing up and down the San Diego County coast has yet to recover since the storm. Prior to Hilary, calico bass were producing the best surface fishing up and down the San Diego County coast and the top areas were the Point Loma Kelp Beds, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, Carlsbad, the Barn Kelp and San Onofre. These same areas should be improving as the post-Hilary water conditions continue to improve.

The fishing for an assortment of rockfish species continues to be very good at various coastal and offshore rockfish spots. Good reports have been coming in from areas such as the hard bottom to the southeast and to the northwest of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the 9 Mile Bank, the 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Box Canyon, the 14 Mile Bank and the 60 Mile Bank.

Halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been pretty much uneventful since Hilary moved through. Prior to Hilary there were occasional legal sized halibut being reported off Imperial Beach and at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL tower or the structure of the Yukon shipwreck off Mission Beach. A good depth range off Imperial Beach has been in 37 to 50 feet and 50 feet has been a good depth off Mission Beach. Other productive halibut areas have been San Diego Bay, at the end of the sunken jetty off Coronado at the entrance to San Diego Bay, off Black’s Beach, off South Ponto Beach, at the Buccaneer Pipeline, at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and off of San Onofre.

The summer fishing hit a bump in the road by being in the path of Tropical Storm Hilary, but the offshore fishing has since rebounded with the fishing at Los Coronado Islands and along the San Diego County coast taking a bit longer to rebound to pre-Hilary levels of surface fishing activity. In the meantime, anglers fishing at Los Coronado Islands and along the San Diego County coast have plenty of good bottom fish fishing available to them to keep them busy until the surface fishing perks up. I hope you are able to get out on the water as much as possible so you can enjoy the remainder of the summer fishing season. 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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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