LocalFish Rap

Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna and Yellowtail Highlight San Diego Area Fishing!

The spring season has formally arrived and the surface fishing has been improving with the progression of the spring season. A recent exception that should be just a temporary setback was the arrival of a weather system last weekend which brought strong winds, high seas and rain that resulted in the posting of Small Craft Advisories and Gale Warnings.


Up until the arrival of the weekend storm the offshore water temperature had been holding in the 61 to 63 degree range and it is yet to be known what the water temperature will be once the boats get out on the fishing grounds after the storm. From what I can see on a water temperature image it looks like the water temperature held up pretty well through the storm.


Some of the better fish counts in the days before the recent storm start with Tribute out of Seaforth Sportfishing that had 22 anglers on a 1.5 day trip return with a catch 19 bluefin tuna and 4 yellowfin tuna. Seaforth Sportfishing reports that most of the bluefin were in the 100 to 180 pound range. The few yellowfin being caught have included nice sized fish that have gone to 45 pounds. Seaforth Sportfishing also had a recent trip aboard Polaris Supreme get back from a 1.5 day trip that had 24 anglers catch their limits of 48 bluefin tuna and 4 yellowfin tuna. Fisherman’s Landing had Pacific Dawn out on the day that the weekend storm arrived and they had a nice catch of 15 anglers boating 19 bluefin tuna which were for the most part in the 100 to 170 pound range.


Bluefin are being caught during the night and during the day with the night time fishing tending to be the best. Knife jigs fished around sonar marks and meter marks being found in the dark have been working best. Also try sinker rigged sardines during the night and the day as well as flylined sardines during the day.


The best bluefin and yellowfin area has been in the 1000 fathom basin below the 1010 Trench between 90 and 100 miles 185 to 190 degrees from Point Loma. There has also been some unconfirmed second hand radio chatter about bluefin being seen outside of the Coronado Islands in the region of the 425 Bank.


Boats traveling to Mexican waters to escape the rockfish closure on the United States side of the Mexico border and fish for rockfish in Mexico continue to find very good fishing around Los Coronado Islands for a mix of reds, 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 and on the Mexico side of the border at the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank. Another productive rockfish zone has been at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in the 25 to 45 fathom depths.


There has not been much to report in the way of recent yellowtail activity around Los Coronado Islands. A few weeks ago there was sporadic yellowtail activity reported around North Island and at the Rockpile but I have not heard of any yellowtail activity in those areas lately. I suggest keeping an eye out for signs of yellowtail while fishing for rockfish around Los Coronado Islands.


Further down the Mexican Coast, sportboats have also been fishing 1.5 and 2 day trips down to the Punta Colnett and San Martin Island areas that have been catching good numbers of reds, whitefish, salmon grouper, rockfish and lingcod along with having a chance at finding some biting yellowtail. A fish count from the past weekend was Horizon out of H&M Landing that was fishing the Punta Colnett area on a 1.5 day trip and had 25 anglers catch 125 reds, 40 whitefish, 40 salmon grouper, 40 rockfish and 5 lingcod.


Good news for anglers is that the seasonal rockfish closure on the United States side of the Mexico Border comes to an end on April 1, 2024. There will likely be a lot of anglers wanting to fish the April 1 rockfish opener to be among the first to drop baits to the bottom at rockfish areas that have been closed since January 1, 2024. Please refer to the Department of Fish and Wildlife website for details about the closure at   www.wildlife.ca.gov.


The fishing along the San Diego County coast continues to provide a chance at catching a large yellowtail at La Jolla. The yellowtail activity remains inconsistent but the overall picture has been that there have been improving numbers of yellowtail showing and biting. The yellowtail being caught have been worth the patience and effort as most have been up in the 18 to 40 pound class.


The majority of 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 30 fathoms with the 14 to 25 fathom depths usually being the best. 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 iron fished around meter marks that are found around deep bait balls continues to account for most 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 style yo-yo jigs have also been effective at times.


Surface iron has also been effective for yellowtail 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. As the spring season progresses there have been more yellowtail hooked using things other than iron with trolled Rapalas and slow trolled mackerel or slow trolled sardines also producing an occasional yellowtail.


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, sheephead, whitefish and halibut.


Productive areas for the sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, sheephead and whitefish 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 and San Onofre.


There have been improving numbers of halibut biting along the San Diego County coast and areas that have been providing halibut activity include the sandy bottom adjacent to the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the sandy bottom adjacent to hard bottom outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, the area outside of the sunken jetty on the Coronado side of the entrance to San Diego Bay, the area inside of San Diego Bay ranging from Harbor Island on down to the Coronado Bridge while drifting on the Coronado side of the channel, 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 the sandy bottom next to structure outside of San Onofre. Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing was out on a recent half-day that was specifically targeting halibut for their halibut derby and they had a noteworthy catch of 39 anglers catching 28 halibut and 14 halibut that were released.


The spring fishing season has seen a good start. The fishing should get better and better as the northern weather systems continue to back off as the spring season progresses. I am optimistic in the hope that we are seeing the start of a banner 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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