The fall fishing season is rewarding Southern California offshore anglers who have not yet put away their tackle for the winter as there continues to be good mixed bag fishing for bluefin tuna, yellowfin, tuna dorado and yellowtail in local offshore waters. When you add a chance at a striped marlin, there are lots of exciting possibilities on an offshore fishing trip! Anglers fishing San Diego County area coastal waters have also been doing well on what has mostly been a mix of calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, sheephead and whitefish to go with a chance at a few bonito or a bonus yellowtail, halibut or white seabass.
Bluefin tuna have been running from 15 to 225-plus pounds with the majority of the fish being in the 15 to 60 pound range. Yellowfin tuna have been mostly in the 15 to 40 pound class with some larger fish to 60 pounds occasionally found in the mix. The current productive areas for the mix of bluefin, yellowfin, dorado and a few yellowtail span from the Catalina area on down to the offshore banks outside of San Diego and include the 152 Spot, 277 Spot, 209 Spot, 289 Spot, 312 Spot, 181 Spot, the Corner, the 43 Fathom Spot, the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy and the Butterfly Bank. Of all those areas the region of the 43 Fathom Spot has been the best in recent days. Some of the better sportboat and private boat trips to the 43 Fathom Spot have been posting mixed bag catches that include near limit to limit catches of bluefin tuna along with a good numbers of yellowfin tuna, a few dorado and an occasional yellowtail.
Private boater Captain Bob Woodard Jr. of Dropback took out Fugitive and fished the 43 Fathom Spot. Woodard reported that he and a friend caught their limits of 4 bluefin tuna, caught and released a fifth bluefin tuna and also caught a 40 pound yellowfin tuna. Their bluefin were in the 15 to 20 pound class and their catch was made up of 3 baitfish and 3 troll fish. Woodard said that when using sardines that they were getting bites when they went over to using light line and small hooks. He reported that using 20 pound test line with a size 2 circle hook was a good combination that was getting bites on the sardines. Woodard also said they were getting bites on the sardines when flylining and also when using .75 ounce sinkers. Woodard’s report was that the water around the 43 Fathom Spot was at 67.5 degrees and was blue.
Those wishing to focus on fishing for the larger bluefin with less available in the way of dorado and yellowfin activity have been finding bluefin to 225-plus pounds biting at the Tanner Bank, the Cherry Bank and the Cortes Bank. The bluefin have been biting during the night and the day with the best chances at the larger bluefin usually coming during the dark. The fishing out this way can be hit or miss but the payoff can be a big bluefin tuna.
Kelp paddies, porpoise schools, trolling strikes, spots of breaking fish, spots of breezing fish, meter marks and sonar marks have been leading to the dorado, yellowfin, bluefin and yellowtail. Sardines have been working well for bait along with kite fished flying fish (for big bluefin), Colt Snipers, knife jigs, poppers and surface iron. Trolling strikes are also being reported on bluefin, yellowfin and dorado with cedar plugs, feathers, Nomad Madmac jigs and spreader bar rigs all being effective.
Striped marling fishing has been slow most days but there are still some marlin around. The past weekend saw a few marlin hookups incidental to tuna fishing which were all lost but 2 marlin were successfully caught and released ahead of the weekend on Thursday. The areas where there has been occasional marlin activity reported have been in the region of the 43 Fathom Spot, the Corner, the 312 Spot, the 209 Spot, 4 to 5 miles off Dana Point and 8 miles off Pebbly Beach that is located below Long Point at Catalina.
The fishing at Los Coronado Islands has been pretty much of an unknown with regard to there being any recent reports. There has been so much good fishing going on in nearby offshore waters that very few if any people have been fishing Los Coronado Islands. At last report, the surface fishing was good for calico bass at the Middle Grounds, there was a bit of yellowtail activity off the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island and there were a few bonito biting at North Island and the Middle Grounds.
The bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been very good for a mix of reds, rockfish and whitefish. 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.
An important reminder to anglers fishing in United States waters is that the fishing for rockfish in Nearshore waters and the fishing for Nearshore rockfish species no matter where they are caught is currently closed. Please refer to the Department of Fish and Wildlife website for all the details about the closed areas and the closed species at www.wildlife.ca.gov.
Anglers need to know that the current closure regulations are in effect through December 31, 2023 when the usual seasonal rockfish closure will come into effect and be in effect from January 1, 2024 through March 31, 2024.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, whitefish and sheephead and there has also been a chance at catching a few bonito along with a bonus yellowtail, halibut or white seabass.
Calico bass have been providing most of the surface fishing activity along the San Diego County coast with productive areas being the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northeast of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Green Tank, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, the Barn and San Onofre.
Captain Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reports that calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, sheephead and whitefish have been biting for them at kelp bed and hard bottom areas off South Carlsbad, Leucadia and Solana Beach. He also mentioned that some of the Oceanside Sea Center boats have been doing well fishing for rockfish in areas outside of the closure zone that are open to rockfish fishing.
As the calico bass fishing has been starting to slow some in the late part of the season, more and more boats fishing out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been fishing for sculpin, sand bass, sheephead and whitefish at hard bottom and structure spots off Imperial Beach that include the Imperial Beach Pipeline.
The yellowtail fishing along the San Diego County coast has been slow but there has been occasional yellowtail activity found off La Jolla. In addition to a chance at a yellowtail, La Jolla has also been producing a few bonito which have been biting on sardines. To locate yellowtail at La Jolla look for areas of bait, working birds, breaking fish, meter marks and sonar marks. The best zone has been fishing from the outskirts of the upper end of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla on up to the upper end of La Jolla in 7 to 35 fathoms with the 7 to 20 fathom depths being the best. Once yellows are located, try surface iron, yo-yo iron and sardines or mackerel that are either flylined or fished down deep on a dropper loop rig.
Halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been producing an occasional legal sized halibut. A couple of the better areas for halibut have been off Imperial Beach and at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL tower or the structure of the Yukon shipwreck off Mission Beach. A good depth range off Imperial Beach has been in 37 to 50 feet and 50 feet has been a good depth off Mission Beach. Other productive halibut areas have been San Diego Bay, the area at the end of the sunken jetty off Coronado at the entrance to San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Black’s Beach, South Ponto Beach, the Buccaneer Pipeline, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and San Onofre.
The fall fishing season has been a good one so far and things might continue to remain good for a while longer if we do not get hit by strong northern weather systems. I hope you can get out on the water and take advantage of the fall fishing season while the fish are still around and biting. 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.