The 2022 middle to late December Southern California offshore fishing picture is not what it was during the middle of summer, but we are now not far from the end of 2022 and we continue to be blessed and still have good numbers of bluefin tuna and a few swordfish biting in local offshore waters. With an absence of strong northern weather systems in the current 10 day forecast, there is reason to think that the 2022 offshore fishing season might just roll right into the New Year of 2023.
The best bluefin fishing has been out at the Tanner Bank where boats have been anchoring and drifting in the region of the high spot and finding near limit-to-limit fishing for bluefin tuna. The bluefin at the Tanner Bank have been mostly 18 to 40 pound fish but recent catches have seen a better grade of bluefin enter the picture with fish to 65 pounds currently in the mix.
Bluefin have been biting both day and night with sardines, live squid, Flat Fall jigs and knife jigs being productive. Live squid has been the best of those baits in recent days and squid have been able to be jigged for bait at night by boats anchored around the Tanner Bank. Even though there has been live squid jigged at night at the Tanner Bank, I suggest getting squid wherever you first find it available if you can find it for sale at a mainland bait receiver or from a squid boat at Catalina or elsewhere.
The bluefin bite has been a steady pick type of a bite that is supplemented by flurries of better numbers of biting fish. As an example of the fishing, Tribute out of Seaforth Sportfishing was out on a recent 1.5 day trip that had 28 anglers catch their limits of 56 bluefin tuna along with 40 rockfish, 4 lingcod and 71 whitefish.
22nd Street Landing had 3 boats out fishing bluefin last weekend. Amigo had a 2 day trip with 8 anglers catch their limits of 32 bluefin tuna along with 2 lingcod and 160 rockfish. Freedom had 35 anglers on a 1.5 day trip catch 56 bluefin tuna and 213 rockfish. Pride was out on a 1.5 day trip that saw 13 anglers catch their limits of 36 bluefin tuna along with 130 rockfish.
The Tanner Bank has been the best for bluefin and there have also been reports of some bluefin biting around the Cortes Bank. In Mexican waters, there have also been a couple of unconfirmed reports about bluefin being caught around some of the offshore banks outside of Ensenada.
The other offshore fishing going on in this middle to late December time period has been deep drop fishing for swordfish. The 9 Mile Bank and 178 Spot areas have been a couple of the better deep drop swordfish areas in recent weeks but boats fishing those areas and fishing the nearby La Jolla Canyon during the past week have been reporting slow fishing. The swordfish bite at the 9 Mile Bank, 178 Spot and La Jolla Canyon sectors slowed when the water temperature dropped down into the 59 to 60 degree range.
An interesting thing is that while the recent deep drop swordfish bite has been on the decline in the San Diego region, there is still an occasional swordfish being caught by boats that have been deep drop fishing in the Catalina region. The deep drop fishing in the Catalina region has been producing occasional bites while fishing in the region of the 152 Spot, Avalon Bank and the area 3.5 to 8 miles off Newport Beach. The information I have is of 2 deep drop swordfish being caught in the Catalina region during the past week or so.
There have not been many boats out fishing around Los Coronado Islands lately but boats that have been giving the Islands a try have been finding good fishing for an assortment of bottom fish that include reds, whitefish, sculpin, salmon grouper, lingcod and an assortment of rockfish species.
Top areas for the bottom fish have been to the north and northwest of North Island in the 25 to 50 fathom depths with the South Kelp Ridge and the Rockpile also being productive areas in similar depths. The Rockpile tends to be the best zone for a chance at lingcod with a private boater reporting fishing the 18 to 25 fathom depths and catching 3 lingcod to go with a mix of sheephead, sculpin and whitefish.
The water temperature around Los Coronado Islands has been in the 58-to-60-degree range and there has not been much yellowtail or other surface fishing activity found in that cool water.
The water temperature along the San Diego County coast has been in the 59-to-60.5-degree range and the coastal fishing remains good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, whitefish, reds, rockfish and an occasional bonus yellowtail or lingcod.
Yellowtail fishing along the San Diego County coast continues to be difficult and the showings of yellowtail have recently been on the decline. Good news is that there are still occasional showings of yellowtail in an area ranging from the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach on up to the ridge off Del Mar. Meter marks, bait balls and spots of working birds have been leading to the occasional yellowtail hookup. Most of the showings of yellowtail have been found during the morning hours with the best zone being in the region around the outskirts of the MLPA closure zone that is located at the lower end of La Jolla. The yellowtail have been quality 15 to 20 pound fish and most yellowtail hookups have been reported on dropper loop fished sardines or mackerel, yo-yo iron or surface iron.
Anglers need to keep in mind that the annual seasonal rockfish/groundfish closure in U.S. waters goes into effect on New Years Day and that the closure period will run from January 1, 2023, through March 31, 2023. If anglers wish to fish for the species covered by the closure they will need to travel into Mexican waters to fish for these fish during the closure period.
Good areas for the assorted bottom fish species along the San Diego County coast listed from the south to the north have been the International Reef, the Imperial Beach Pipeline, 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 270, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, Carlsbad and Box Canyon.
Halibut fishing continues to be slow but if you want to give it a try, areas that have produced an occasional halibut along the San Diego County Coast in recent weeks have been Imperial Beach, the Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego 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.
The end of the 2022 Southern California offshore fishing season is fast approaching and if strong northern weather systems continue to stay clear of Southern California, I am thinking that the offshore bluefin and swordfish bites will carry right over into 2023. I expect that there will be some people out on New Years Day to try and catch the first bluefin or swordfish of 2023. In any event, I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and take advantage of the fun fishing going on be it offshore at the Islands or along the coast. 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 email@example.com.