SAN DIEGO⸺ Southern California offshore anglers continue to enjoy good fun fishing for bluefin tuna, producing near limit catches on the better days of fishing. The bluefin have ranged in size from 20 to 250-plus pounds and wise anglers have been prepared with an assortment of gear ranging from 25 to 100-pound test outfits so they can effectively handle the different sizes of fish they might encounter during an offshore fishing adventure.
The bluefin have been moving around a lot during the past week with skippers seeing hot bites pop up over a large area spread from the 385 Spot outside of Ensenada up to the region of the 43 Fathom Spot below San Clemente Island. Recent productive areas within that expanse listed from the south to the north have been the 385 Spot, the 475 Knuckle, the Upper Hidden Bank, the 425 Bank, the 230 Spot, the 371 Bank, the San Salvador Knoll, the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy, and the 43 Fathom Spot.
The best bluefin fishing is usually found during the hours of dark but there have been good daytime bites to be found as well. During the dark most bluefin stops originate by stopping and drifting on a meter mark or a sonar mark. During daylight hours most bluefin stops originate from stopping on meter marks, sonar marks, spots of bluefin spotted up working on the surface and the occasional bluefin trolling strike.
In the region of the 425 Bank, most of the bluefin caught have come from stopping and drifting on meter marks or sonar marks found in the vicinity of tuna pens. Anglers and Skippers need to keep in mind that while in Mexico that Mexican law requires boats stay at least 250 meters (820 feet) away from commercial fishing vessels and fixed or floating fishing tackle. This law specifically includes keeping at least 250 meters away from tuna pens.
In the dark, bluefin have been biting best on knife jigs and sinker rigged sardines. During daylight hours, flat fall jigs, knife jigs, sinker rigged sardines, flylined sardines, kite fished sardines, Colt Snipers, poppers and stick baits have been effective. Trolling has also produced a few bluefin during the daylight hours with spreader bar rigs, Halco plugs and cedar plugs working best on the troll.
At Los Coronado Islands there have been some boats out fishing that have been reporting good mixed bag fishing for calico bass, reds, whitefish, sculpin, salmon grouper and rockfish to go with a chance at a yellowtail, lingcod, halibut, or barracuda.
Skippers report that there are more yellowtail around than recent catches might indicate and are hoping the bite switches on and improves as the water continues to warm. Most of the yellowtail activity has been found around North Island, along the weather side of South Island and at the Middle Grounds. Meter marks, sonar marks and spots of breezing fish have produced an occasional yellowtail on sardines or iron and there has also been an occasional yellowtail caught on a trolled Rapala.
Yellowtail around Los Coronado Islands 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 near the surface. Good choices for yo-yoed iron include Salas 6X and Salas 6X Jr. jigs in the blue and white color combination and in scrambled egg colors. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in the blue and white color combination, mint, and sardine colors.
There have been pretty good numbers of calico bass biting at kelp bed areas around South Island and the best zones for the bottom fish species have been around the Rockpile and at hard bottom areas to the north and the northwest of North Island. A good depth range for the bottom fish fishing has been in 20 to 50 fathoms.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, reds, rockfish, sculpin, and whitefish and to go with a chance at catching a bonus yellowtail, halibut, lingcod, or white seabass.
The upper end of La Jolla has been the best zone to try for a yellowtail along the San Diego County coast. The yellowtail biting at La Jolla have been good-sized fish with a high percentage in the 20 to 40-pound range. The yellowtail bite has been scratchy with the most recent reports being of some yellows spotted working near the surface under working birds. Most of the recent reports have been that the yellows have been up and down quickly and not very interested in biting.
Yellowtail have been found off the upper end of La Jolla and in the area below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla. The upper end of La Jolla has been the best and yellows have been located anywhere from the kelp line on out to 25 fathoms. Sardines, mackerel, and surface iron have been good choices for yellowtail. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7 X lights in blue and white, sardine and mint colors.
There has been a bit of white seabass activity reported in the San Diego region with recent reports being of a good-sized white seabass being hooked and lost by a boat fishing off the Green Tank at Point Loma and another report of a boat having a few white seabass come up and swim around the boat while fishing at the upper end of La Jolla.
The halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been fair overall with the highlight report being about halibut caught during the 12th Annual Bay Challenge tournament held on June 5 in San Diego Bay.
The report about the tournament was provided by private boater, Captain Louie Zimm of the Shearwater who reported that there were four clubs participating in the tournament. The participating clubs were the host club the San Diego Yacht Club, Southwestern Yacht Club, Silver Gate Yacht Club and Coronado Yacht Club.
Zimm reported that there were at least eight nice sized halibut caught in the tournament with most falling within the 7-to-9-pound range with a 16.5-pound halibut winning the tournament. The winning halibut caused some drama being caught late in the game with just 30 minutes left in the tournament and it was weighed in just 15 minutes before the weigh-in deadline. The 16.5-pound halibut won the tournament for the San Diego Yacht Club and was brought in by Jack Santone with the fish being caught by his future son-in-law, Emerson Sims.
Other notes from the 12th Annual Bay Challenge tournament were Coronado Yacht Club winning the “Other” category with a 5.5-pound shortfin corvina. Southwestern Yacht Club posted the best bass score with their 5 biggest bass including a 6-pound sand bass. Captain Bob Fletcher of the Fletch caught an 8.3-pound halibut and a 4.3-pound shortfin corvina fishing aboard Captain Louie Zimm’s boat Shearwater. Neal Johnson caught a 9.3-pound halibut on a plastic bait while fishing from his kayak.
Other areas producing an occasional halibut along the San Diego County coast are Imperial Beach, the Hotel Del Coronado, 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 calico bass bite in the kelp beds continues to improve up and down the San Diego County Coast. The kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla have been the best but the bite in other kelp bed areas has also been productive. In the Point Loma area, try kelp bed spots such as the Lab, Green Tank, Point Loma College and the Roundhouse at Sunset Cliffs. Going further north, try the kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, Carlsbad, the Barn, and San Onofre.
Fishing for rockfish has also been good but more and more boats have been fishing the kelp beds in order to focus on calico bass. The best areas for the rockfish fishing along the San Diego County coast as listed from the south to the north have been the International Reef, the hard bottom to the west of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, The 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, and Box Canyon.
The first day of summer is soon coming but there is plenty of good fun fishing going on here and now in the later part of spring. Be it offshore, at the local islands or along the coast I hope you take advantage of the good spring fishing before the summer crowds arrive. 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.