LocalFish Rap

Bluefin Tuna Already Biting Within 1.5 day Range of San Diego!

The first day of Spring is on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, but “spring like” surface fishing seems to be arriving a bit early with bluefin tuna biting for boats fishing offshore waters down in the Punta Colnett and San Martin Island region and with yellowtail starting to show around Los Coronado Islands. The San Diego County and Southern Orange County coastal region has also seen the development of some more spring like calico bass and sand bass fishing and the La Jolla area continues to provide occasional showings of yellowtail.

What is interesting is how the water temperature has remained warmer than one might expect during this winter season despite the fact that we have had quite a few storms moving through Southern California. After the most recent weather system passed through with strong winds, rain and high seas the water off Point Loma seemed to be unaffected and was still unseasonably warm. Specifically, the water in the area was at 62 degrees and was clean.

Sportboats have been fishing 1.5 and 2 day trips down to the Punta Colnett and San Martin Island region during the winter season and have been catching good numbers of reds, rockfish and lingcod along with having a chance at finding some biting yellowtail. Last weekend, a couple of the sportboats fishing down that way also spent some time looking around offshore for bluefin tuna and in addition to the good bottom fishing and a chance at some yellowtail that they found while fishing along the Mexican coast, they also found success offshore in catching bluefin tuna that went to 70 pounds.

Fish counts from the past weekend start with Fisherman’s Landing that had Pacific Dawn out on a 1.5 day trip with 16 anglers who caught limits of reds, limits of rockfish and 6 bluefin tuna that ranged in size to 70 pounds. H&M Landing had Old Glory out on a 2 day trip where 10 anglers caught 162 rockfish, 22 lingcod, 13 yellowtail and 3 bluefin tuna. H&M Landing also had Horizon out on a 1.5 day trip that saw 14 anglers catch 70 reds, 24 lingcod, 21 rockfish, 16 whitefish, 8 bonito and 1 sheephead. Seaforth Sportfishing had Tribute out on a 1.5 day trip with 19 anglers who caught 95 reds, 57 rockfish, 24 lingcod, 12 whitefish and 2 yellowtail.

An ongoing reminder to anglers is that the annual rockfish closure on the United States side of the Mexico border went into effect on New Years Day and that the closure will remain in effect until April 1, 2024. During this time period anglers wishing to fish for rockfish will need to do so in Mexican waters. An additional reminder is that the fishing for sheephead on the United States side of the Mexico border will be closed until March 1, 2024. Please refer to the Department of Fish and Wildlife website for all the details about the various closures at www.wildlife.ca.gov.

Los Coronado Islands have been producing very good numbers of rockfish for those wishing to escape the rockfish closure in United States waters and do some rockfish fishing. A productive rockfish zone for a mix of reds, salmon grouper, whitefish an assortment of rockfish species and an occasional bonus lingcod has been at the hard bottom to the northwest, north and northeast of North Island in the 25 to 60 fathom depths. Not far away, the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank has also been very good for rockfish on the Mexico side of the border.  Another productive rockfish zone has been at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in the 25 to 45 fathom depths.

There has been a bit of yellowtail activity reported in the region of Los Coronado Islands with occasional spots of breezing fish being reported seen off the weather side of North Island and at the hard bottom to the northeast of North Island. It has been hard to get the yellowtail to bite but there was a recent report of a private boater catching a couple of the quality sized 20 pound class yellowtail on surface iron that was cast to breezing fish.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast continues to be highlighted by the chance at catching a large yellowtail at La Jolla. The yellowtail activity has been inconsistent but there have been occasional showings of yellowtail that have produced a few quality sized fish that have been up in the 18 to 40 pound range.

Most yellowtail hookups have been on yo-yo iron or surface iron that are fished around spots of bait, meter marks, sonar marks or spots of breaking fish. Most of the yellowtail activity has been found in depths ranging from 14 to 40 fathoms with the 18 to 25 fathom depths being the best. Areas of bait are likely spots to mark where yellowtail might show. The best zones to try to locate yellowtail have been along the outskirts of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla as well as outside of the upper end of La Jolla.

Yo-yo jigs fished around yellowtail meter marks that are found around deep bait balls have accounted for the majority of the yellowtail hookups and good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X and 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white and scrambled egg colors. Colt Sniper dart style yo-yo jigs have also produced an occasional yellowtail hookup. Surface iron has also been effective when you can cast the jig to breaking fish before they sound. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45 and Salas 7X light jigs in blue and white, mint and sardine colors.

The past weekend also saw some bait sized squid activity in the La Jolla area with boats that were fishing for whitefish and sculpin reporting that fish they were catching had been feeding on squid. No recent reports of white seabass biting at La Jolla but anglers are hoping some white seabass will be moving into the area to feed on the squid.

In addition to a chance at a yellowtail at La Jolla, hard bottom and structure areas up and down the San Diego County coast have been producing a good mix of calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, whitefish and an occasional halibut. Some spring like calico bass fishing has also been reported in north San Diego County and south Orange County area waters where the calicos have been responding to chum and come up boiling around the boat.  The most recent report of this type of calico bass activity was from the San Mateo Point area by San Clemente. Productive areas for the bass, sculpin and whitefish listed from south to north include the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, the Barn, San Onofre and Point San Mateo.

Halibut fishing seems to be improving a bit with a 30-plus pound halibut recently reported caught off Mission Beach. Areas that produce an occasional halibut include the sandy bottom adjacent to the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the sandy bottom adjacent to hard bottom outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, San Diego Bay, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower and the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and sandy bottom next to structure outside of San Onofre.

We are not far from spring and the ocean is already starting to produce some “spring like” fishing. It would be a good idea to be ready for an early start to the upcoming surface 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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