We are in the middle of November and there is still good to very good bluefin tuna fishing in local offshore waters with the region of the 43 Fathom Spot, the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy and the western wing of the Butterfly Bank producing well. Of the 3 locations mentioned, the area of the 43 Fathom Spot that is located 38 miles 258 degrees from Point Loma has been the best. There have also been some spots of breaking bluefin being seen by boats that have been deep drop drifting for swordfish within 20 miles of Point Loma in the region of the 9 Mile Bank and the nearby 178 Spot but there has not been much in the way of bluefin actually being caught from this zone.
Most of the bluefin have been in the 20 to 50 pound range but there are still bluefin to 150-plus pounds being found in the mix. The most recent sportboat fish counts are New Lo-An out of Point Loma Sportfishing that had 18 anglers on a 3 day trip catch their limits of 108 bluefin tuna that included 24 bluefin that were in the 100 to 150 pound class. Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing had a 2 day trip with 18 anglers also catch their limits of 72 bluefin tuna.
Tuna have been found by locating sonar marks, meter marks, porpoise schools, spots of breaking fish, kelp paddies and trolling strikes. Sardines have been the best bait for the bluefin with Colt Snipers, flat fall jigs, knife jigs and Megabait style jigs also being effective. Nomad Madmac jigs. spreader bar rigs and cedar plugs have also been catching an occasional bluefin tuna on the troll.
Private boater Tom Parnakian of Ambush went fishing on a recent 3 day trip aboard Red Rooster III out of H&M Landing and reported about the trip. He said they had steady near limit to limit bluefin tuna fishing while spending most of their time in the region of the 43 Fathom Spot and said that on the last day of the trip that they also found good fishing while working down toward what he thought to be the western wing of the Butterfly Bank.
Parnakian said that in most instances you had to be patient in waiting for a bite. He reported that they got their stops from meter marks, sonar marks, spots of breaking fish, a foamer spot of fish and a spot of breezing fish. Most of the stops were of the steady plunker variety where they kept a hookup or two going but he said they had one stop where the fish came to the boat and bit aggressively. That stop where the fish were more aggressive biters was in the stop that started with stopping alongside of breezing fish.
Parnakian caught 4 bluefin on the trip that included the biggest bluefin of the trip that weighed in at 46 pounds. He also lost a good sized bluefin close to the boat when the hook pulled out after a nearly hour long battle. The 46 pound bluefin was caught on a silver and blue Colt Sniper in the 100 gram size and the big bluefin that was lost near the boat was hooked on a knife jig. He also caught a 20 pound bluefin on a silver and pink color flat fall jig and noted that bluefin were biting for some of the other anglers on Salas 6X chrome jigs and on Megabait chrome jigs.
Parnakian’s other two bluefin were caught on sardines and he said that nose hooked sardines and sardines that were hooked in the back below the dorsal fin were getting bit best. Spending some time at the bait tank to choose a lively sardine was also reported to be very helpful in getting a bite on a sardine.
Parnakian had nothing but good things to say about his trip aboard the Red Rooster III. He very much liked the boat, Captain Andrew Cates, the crew and the food. He said that Captain Andy Cates’ son Captain Andrew Cates was running the trip and that Captain Andy Cates was also aboard for the trip. It sounded like top notch service and food to go with some fun fishing aboard a nice and comfortable boat.
Striped marlin fishing remains slow with very few marlin being seen during the past few weeks and with the last marlin that I know of reported to have been seen almost a week ago in the area to the southwest of the 277 Spot off the East End of Catalina. There is still some 66 degree water around and that is certainly warm enough for some late season marlin activity but it seems like most of the marlin that were around have moved on to be in warmer waters during our cold water months.
Deep drop fishing for swordfish continues to provide some hookups for sportfishing boats and commercial boats. The past two days have seen 2 sportfishing caught swordfish brought into Fisherman’s Landing. The first was caught aboard Freeman 34 out of Fisherman’s Landing that weighed in a 254 pound swordfish. The next day saw Bight Sportfishing out of Fisherman’s Landing bring in another sportfishing caught swordfish that weighed in at 155 pounds.
Productive areas for the deep drop swordfish fishing have been the 9 Mile Bank, 178 Spot, the east end of Catalina, the area off the Slide and Avalon at Catalina, the oil rigs in the Catalina Channel and 3 to 8 miles off the stretch of coast between La Jolla and Newport Beach. Of all those areas the 9 Mile Bank, 178 Spot, La Jolla, Carlsbad and Newport Beach have been the best.
The fishing around Los Coronado Islands has not received much attention due to the good fishing that has been going on in local offshore waters. The last sportboat trip I know of was nearly a week ago when San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing fished a full day trip with 33 anglers who caught 2 yellowtail, 1 lingcod, 5 sheephead and 165 rockfish. There have been a few private boaters fishing around Los Coronado Islands since the trip on San Diego and they have found some bottom fish species biting but nothing doing on the yellowtail or other surface fishing species.
North Island has been a zone where occasional yellowtail activity has been found around Los Coronado Islands but looking for areas where you find your warmest and cleanest water would be as good a method as any in trying to locate some yellowtail activity. The bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been producing a mix of reds, salmon grouper, assorted 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.
An important reminder to anglers fishing in United States waters is that the fishing for rockfish in Nearshore waters and the fishing for Nearshore rockfish species no matter where they are caught is currently closed. Please refer to the Department of Fish and Wildlife website for all the details about the closed areas and the closed species at www.wildlife.ca.gov.
Anglers also need to know that the current closure regulations are in effect through December 31, 2023 when the usual seasonal rockfish closure will come into effect and be in effect from January 1, 2024 through March 31, 2024.
The fishing for rockfish has been good in areas that are outside of the current closure zones at places such as the 9 Mile Bank, South Carlsbad, Box Canyon and the 14 Mile Bank.
The rest of the fishing along the San Diego County coast has been pretty good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, whitefish and sheephead and there has also been a chance at scratching out a yellowtail at La Jolla. Productive areas for calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, whitefish and sheephead have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Green Tank, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, the Barn and San Onofre. The best zone to try for a yellowtail off La Jolla has been outside of the upper end of La Jolla in 8 to 30 fathoms.
Halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been scratchy. A few of the better areas for halibut have been off Imperial Beach, in San Diego Bay and at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL tower or the structure of the Yukon shipwreck off Mission Beach.
The 2023 Southern California fall fishing season continues to provide anglers with fine fishing opportunities be it offshore, at the local Islands or along the coast. I hope you can get out on the water and enjoy the fall 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.