SAN DIEGO⸺ The bluefin tuna season has taken a sharp turn for the better in past week. The bluefin fishing got good and last weekend it was good enough that most if not all of the San Diego area-based sport boats out fishing on 1.5 day or longer trips returned with catches including near limit to limit numbers of bluefin tuna. When you add some kelp-paddy yellowtail to the mix it makes for some fine offshore fishing.
There is currently a windy weather system moving through Southern California with Small Craft Advisories and Gale Warnings posted. Once the weather lays down and allows boats to get back out to the offshore fishing grounds it will be interesting to observe what effect (if any) the windy weather might have had on the ocean conditions and the bluefin fishing.
Most of the bluefin have been in the 25 to 60-pound range with some larger bluefin reaching 100 pounds. The best of the bluefin fishing continues to be found in the dark by locating sonar marks and then fishing with knife jigs and flat fall jigs. Sinker rigged sardines also account for some of the bluefin being caught in the dark.
Good news for anglers is that in addition to all the bluefin caught in the dark there have been improving numbers of bluefin caught during daylight hours. Most of the tuna caught during the daylight come from stopping on sonar marks, spots of breezing fish, spots of breaking fish, and trolling strikes. Daylight bluefin have been biting on sinker rigged sardines, flylined sardines, knife jigs, flat fall jigs, Colt Snipers, Megabaits, trolled spreader bars, and trolled daisy chains. A couple of recent private boater reports recorded one Skipper with two bluefin on a trolled zucchini color spreader bar and another Skipper reported catching a troll fish bluefin on a cedar plug daisy chain rig.
The best fishing for bluefin and yellowtail was found around some of the offshore banks above and outside of Ensenada. Best areas were in the region to the southeast of the Lower Hidden Bank, the area to the northeast of the Upper 500 Bank, the area above the 385 Spot, and the area to the north of the 238 Spot. This has you fishing areas 48 to 65 miles, 166 to 182 degrees from Point Loma.
Bluefin continue to move up the coast with the Upper Hidden Bank, the 9 Mile Bank and the Catalina Channel having recent showings of bluefin. There was a recent report of a few 12 to 15-pound bluefin caught on Colt Snipers and Megabaits cast to spots of breaking fish found at the upper and the middle parts of the 9 Mile Bank. Another recent report said there were a couple of spots of breaking bluefin seen by a Skipper fishing in the Catalina Channel between the 14 Mile Bank and Catalina.
Los Coronado Islands have been producing good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, calico bass, whitefish, reds, an assortment of rockfish, and a few lingcod. As an example of the most recent fishing around Los Coronado Islands, San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing fished a full day trip and had 22 anglers catch 8 yellowtail, 33 calico bass, 29 whitefish, 24 rockfish, and 3 lingcod.
Yellowtail have been found in areas such as the weather side of North Island, the hard bottom to the northeast of North Island, the Middle Grounds and the weather side of South Island. Yellowtail have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks, spots of breezing fish, and spots of breaking fish. The yellowtail fishing has become more “spring like” in nature in that there has been an increase in the yellowtail activity located around the surface.
The yellowtail around the Coronados have been ranging from 12 to 25 pounds. Try yo-yo iron and dropper loop fished sardines when you locate yellowtail down deep and try surface iron and flylined sardines when you locate yellows on the surface. Good choices for yo-yo iron are Salas 6X and Salas 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white and scrambled egg colors. Good choices for surface iron are Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in blue and white, mint and sardine colors.
Another sign of the continuing development of the spring season are calico bass becoming more active around the Coronados. Productive areas for calicos are the Middle Grounds, the north end of South Island, the Ribbon Kelp, and the South Kelp.
Good numbers of reds, rockfish, salmon grouper, and whitefish continue to bite around Los Coronado Islands. One of the best areas for bottom fishing has been at hard bottom spots to the north and the northwest of North Island in 30 to 50 fathoms. Another productive bottom fishing zone has been fishing hard bottom areas around the Rockpile in 20 to 45 fathoms.
The fishing along San Diego County coast has been good for a mixed bag of reds, rockfish, whitefish, sculpin, sand bass, and calico bass. The coastal fishing also continues to provide a chance at catching a bonus yellowtail, halibut, white seabass, or lingcod. In a new development, schools of short-sized barracuda recently showed up around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma and the hope is that some schools of legal sized barracuda will follow.
There have been recent showings of yellowtail off the upper end of La Jolla, but recent reports have seen small groups of fish and have said that it has been hard to get the yellowtail to bite. The showings of yellowtail along the coast have been hit or miss but if you are in the right spot at the right time there is a chance at catching a good-sized yellowtail.
Areas where yellowtail tend to show in the La Jolla region are off Pacific Beach, off the upper end of La Jolla and off Torrey Pines. A good depth to look in has been 18 to 30 fathoms. Once yellowtail are located iron has been a good thing to try. Surface iron and yo-yo iron have both produced yellowtail strikes. 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, the blue and white combination and mint.
The best areas for rockfish fishing along San Diego as listed from the south to the north have been the International Reef, the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the southeast and to the west of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, The 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, and Box Canyon.
There has been a mix of sand bass, calico bass and sculpin biting at hard bottom and structure spots. The calico bass fishing has been improving and the best areas have been the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma and the hard bottom to the north-northwest of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma. Additional areas that have been producing bass and sculpin have been the Lighthouse Ridge off Point Loma, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp off Pacific Beach, the upper end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs off Oceanside, and Box Canyon.
Halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast continues to be slow but there was a recent second hand report about improving halibut activity off Imperial Beach. Places where occasional halibut have been caught include Imperial Beach while fishing a short way above the Mexico border, the area 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. The best halibut fishing I know of during the spring season has been found at Catalina while drifting the back side of the eastern part of the Island off the V’s.
There was a recent report of a couple of 60-pound class white seabass being caught off the Aliso Beach area at South Laguna. These fish were reported to have been caught around structure. One of the seabass was reported to have been caught on a live mackerel and the other was reported to have been caught on a Crocodile jig.
The spring fishing season is continuing to develop with bluefin tuna and yellowtail biting offshore, with improving numbers of yellowtail and calico bass biting at Los Coronado Islands and with improving calico bass, barracuda and yellowtail activity along the coast. I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and enjoy the spring time fun. 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 email@example.com.