Anglers Looking Forward to Spring Weather and Spring Fishing
The Southern California winter of 2023 has been one to remember with regard to stormy weather with there being lots of days of extreme weather conditions that have brought rain, gale force winds and high seas. The numerous strong weather systems have kept anglers off the ocean on the bad weather days and have also had an effect on water temperatures which have cooled more than in our recent winter seasons. Sea surface temperatures have continued to drop and are currently down in the 56 to 59 degree range.
Good news is that spring is not far away with Monday, March 20 marking the first day of spring. Anglers are hoping that the coming of spring will bring better weather, warmer water and good surface fishing. Talk of cooler water can bring up the topic of the possibility of a Southern California run of albacore. The extreme winter we have had just might be what it takes to bring about a new cycle of currents and water temperatures that might result in bringing albacore back to our local offshore waters. It certainly makes for good discussion among anglers. Wouldn’t a local run of albacore be nice for the summer of 2023!
When the weather allows, sportboats out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been running what are mostly 1.5-day trips down the Mexican coast to fish the Punta Colnett and Punta Camalu areas. These Mexican coast trips have been finding very good fishing for a mix of reds, salmon grouper, lingcod, and an assortment of rockfish. In addition to the bottom fish species there have been a few calico bass and barracuda biting along with a chance at finding some yellowtail. The more recent trips have had very good fishing for the bottom fish species including lingcod and have found a few bass and barracuda biting but the yellowtail fishing has been slow. If you do locate some Punta Colnett area yellowtail, best bets have been to try yo-yo iron or dropper loop fished sardines.
The two most recent fish counts from boats fishing the Punta Colnett region and below start with Relentless out of H&M Landing that fished a 2.5-day trip with 20 anglers who caught 195 rockfish, 170 reds and 27 lingcod. Pacifica out of Seaforth Sportfishing had a 1.5 day trip with 20 anglers catch 1 barracuda, 27 lingcod, 95 rockfish and 77 reds.
Very few boats have been fishing at Los Coronado Islands lately, but reports are that the surface fishing remains slow in the 56 to 58 degree water being found around the Islands. The cold water temperature has not hindered the bottom fishing though and the bottom fishing has been very good for a mix of reds, assorted rockfish, sculpin and an occasional lingcod. The best areas for the bottom fishing have been northwest and 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.
Some of the sportboats out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been running half day trips to Mexican waters to fish for rockfish. The most recent fish count was from New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing that had 23 anglers on a half day trip catch 155 rockfish.
An ongoing reminder to anglers with regard to the fishing above the Mexico border is that they need to keep in mind that the annual seasonal rockfish/groundfish remains in effect 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 the 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 are focusing their attention on fishing for 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 the yellowtail fishing has been slow without much being caught. The occasional reports of yellowtail activity usually come from the area ranging from the outskirts of the MLPA closure zone that is located at the lower end of La Jolla on up to the area of the lower edge of the La Jolla Canyon that is located above the upper end of La Jolla.
The yellowtail found at La Jolla have been quality sized fish with most in the 20-to-30-pound class and a good depth range to locate yellows has been in 18 to 31 fathoms. Once yellowtail are found, 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 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 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.
I got a couple of second-hand unconfirmed reports about some bluefin having been seen crashing around spots of bait being found 1.5 to 10 miles off Palos Verdes. If these were indeed true reports the fish were likely part of some of the bluefin schools that migrated up off the coast of Northern California or beyond during the summer months. Some nice weather days might get some boats out looking around in local offshore waters for bluefin. That type of hope and anticipation is all part of the excitement of the upcoming spring and summer fishing season.
I hope you can get out on the ocean on one of the good weather days to enjoy some of the fun wintertime salt water fishing that Southern California has to offer. 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.