With regard to fishing, the month of January in 2023 can be summed up by saying there were lots of days of bad weather that kept lots of anglers off the water. Many of the non-rainy days between storms were also days that were plagued by strong winds and high seas that kept boats tied to the dock. The good news is that despite all the days of bad weather there were also some good weather days when anglers were able to get out on the water and sample the fun wintertime fishing.
I do not know of anyone out looking for bluefin tuna lately. The last reports are now several weeks old when boats were catching some 18 to 65 pound bluefin out by the Tanner Bank. A few days ago there were reports from a couple of boats that I believe were commercial drift net boats that were working in an area of relatively warm 62-plus degree water out by the Elephant Bank 125-plus miles southwest of Point Loma. As of their last report they had metered a couple of bluefin and had caught a swordfish along with a few makos and threshers. It was an area holding a decent amount of life as they were reporting having Humboldt squid, Spanish mackerel and greenback mackerel around the boat under the lights at night.
With mostly bad weather during the month of January and with cool 59-to-60-degree water in local offshore waters there have been no recent reports of anyone trying to deep drop fish for swordfish. The most recent reports of local swordfish activity are now more than a month old but for someone who would like to give it a try in an effort to try and catch the first sport caught swordfish of 2023, areas that were last reported to have been showing signs of the possibility holding swordfish 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.
Some sportboats have been running 1.5-day trips down the Mexican coast to fish the Punta Colnett region and the area below Punta Camalu and they have been finding very good fishing for a mix of reds, salmon grouper, lingcod, and an assortment of rockfish and have also found occasional yellowtail activity. The most recent trips found good fishing for the bottom fish species including lingcod but found the yellowtail fishing to be slow. If you do locate some Punta Colnett area yellowtail, best bets have been to try yo-yo iron or dropper loop fished sardines.
Fish counts from the past weekend were Relentless out of H&M Landing that had 18 anglers out on a 1.5-day trip who caught 80 reds, 54 rockfish, 25 whitefish, 2 sheephead and 19 lingcod. Seaforth Sportfishing had Pacifica out on a 1.5 day trip with 14 anglers who caught 65 reds, 33 rockfish, 2 sheephead, 2 barracuda, 3 calico bass, 20 whitefish and 15 lingcod. Seaforth Sportfishing also had Tribute fishing a 1.5 day trip with 35 anglers who caught 105 rockfish, 60 reds, 64 whitefish, 18 lingcod, 3 calico bass, 7 barracuda and 8 sheephead.
Very few boats have been fishing at Los Coronado Islands due to the recent bad weather but the few reports are that the surface fishing has been slow in the 59 to 60 degree water. There is usually very good bottom fishing for a mix of reds, assorted rockfish, sculpin and a few lingcod. The best areas for the bottom fishing have been to the northwest and to the north of North Island in 30 to 60 fathoms and at the hard bottom at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in 25 to 50 fathoms. One of the best areas for lingcod where there have also been some sculpin, whitefish and sheephead biting has been at the Rockpile in 18 to 23 fathoms. Sea Watch out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been running half day trips into Mexican waters and on their most recent trip they had had 23 anglers catch 116 rockfish and 38 whitefish.
An ongoing reminder with regard to the fishing along the San Diego County coast is that 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 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.
There continues to be occasional yellowtail activity found at La Jolla but not much has been caught. The occasional reports of yellowtail activity usually come from the area ranging from the outskirts of the upper part of the MLPA closure zone that is located at the lower end of La Jolla on up to the area off Northwest at the upper end of La Jolla. Also worth a look has been the area above La Jolla along the lower edges of the La Jolla Canyon.
These have been quality sized yellowtail with most in the 20-to-30-pound class and a good depth range has been in 18 to 31 fathoms. Once yellowtail are located, anglers have been reporting getting an occasional bite on surface iron, yo-yo iron and on dropper loop fished sardines or mackerel.
Aside from the sporadic yellowtail activity at La Jolla, when the weather has allowed fishing, recent coastal trips out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been finding their best fishing for sand bass and sculpin at the Imperial Beach Pipeline. Up and down the San Diego County coast, 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 continues to be 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.
Nothing to report in the way of recent white seabass activity along the San Diego County coast but we are in a time of year where things could pick up with the arrival of some 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 month of January of 2023 is now behind us, and it has brought some much-needed rain and water to California reservoirs. The offset is that the same weather that provided the rain has put a damper on the start of the 2023 fishing season. Maybe February will bring some better weather that will let more anglers get back out onto the water. I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and enjoy some of the fun winter time salt water fishing that Southern California has to offer 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.