We are getting late into the month of October and are experiencing our first northern weather system of the fall season but so far the weather system has been relatively mild. Before the weather system arrived there was good to very good offshore fishing for a mix of bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, dorado, yellowtail, skipjack and striped marlin. I am thinking that the weather system we are experiencing is not powerful enough to send these fish away to look for warmer waters for the winter months but time will tell.
The areas producing the mix of bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, dorado, yellowtail and skipjack range from the Catalina region on down to San Diego and include banks such as the 289 Spot, the 181 Spot, the 138 Spot, the area ranging from 3 to 12 miles northeast over to southeast of Pyramid Head at San Clemente Island, the 43 Fathom Spot, the 182 Spot, the Corner, the 224 Spot and the 302 Spot. The bluefin tuna in these areas have mostly been in the 20 to 80 pound range and most of the yellowfin tuna have been in the 15 to 40 pound range.
Some of the better sportboat and private boat trips to the areas mentioned in the paragraph above have been posting mixed bag catches that can include near limit to limit catches of bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and dorado. A recent overnight trip aboard Producer out of H&M Landing had 28 anglers catch 140 yellowfin tuna, 9 dorado, 1 skipjack and 1 bluefin tuna. A recent full day trip aboard San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing had 33 anglers catch 51 bluefin tuna and 7 dorado.
Those wishing to target larger bluefin to 200-plus pounds with less available in the way of dorado, skipjack and yellowfin tuna activity have had varied success while fishing around the Cortes and Tanner Banks. It will be interesting to see the effect of the current weather system on the bluefin fishing out at the Cortes and Tanner Banks. It has been rough weather out by the Cortes and Tanner Banks with Small Craft Advisories being posted in recent days and I know of no trips fishing those banks during this stretch of rough weather.
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 it did pick up a few days ago when 2 marlin were caught in the San Diego region from blind trolling strikes in the region of the 182 Spot. There have also been occasional marlin sightings in the Catalina area by boats fishing the Avalon Bank, 14 Mile Bank, 267 Spot, 209 Spot and 312 Spot.
The surface fishing around Los Coronado Islands has not received much attention lately due to the good offshore fishing going on in nearby offshore waters. The most recent report comes from private boater Gary Mouritzen of Get Bent who fished in the San Diego Rod and Reel Club’s Potpourri Fishing Tournament and tried the Rockpile, the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island, the lee side of South Island, the Middle Grounds and Pukey Point. Mouritzen reported finding 66 to 68 degree water, sloppy weather conditions and nothing doing on the surface fishing. They caught a bunch of whitefish at North Island and had also caught a 5 pound sand bass at Imperial Beach that won a side jackpot in the tournament before heading over to try the fishing at Los Coronado Islands.
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 for rockfish has been good in areas that are outside of the current closure zones at places such as the 9 Mile Bank, South Carlsbad, Box Canyon and the 14 Mile Bank.
The rest of the fishing along the San Diego County coast has been pretty good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, whitefish and sheephead and there has also been improved yellowtail fishing at La Jolla.
The improved yellowtail activity has received attention and New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been consistently posting half-day trip catches that include 1 to 6 yellowtail per day during the past week. Look for meter marks, sonar marks and spots of breaking fish under working birds to locate yellowtail. Seaforth Sportfishing has been suggesting including surface iron and a 40 pound test outfit within the tackle that you bring for targeting yellowtail on the half-day trips.
Productive areas for calico bass have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest 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.
As the calico bass fishing at kelp bed areas has been starting to slow some in the late part of the season, more and more boats have been fishing for sculpin, sand bass, calico bass and whitefish at hard bottom and structure spots off Imperial Beach that include the Imperial Beach Pipeline.
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 currently open to rockfish fishing.
Halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been producing an occasional legal sized halibut. A few of the better areas for halibut have been off Imperial Beach, San Diego Bay 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 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 2023 fall fishing season continues to be a good one and the warm water offshore species might be expected to stay around a while longer if we do not get hit by powerful northern weather systems. I hope you can get out on the water and take advantage of this fine fall fishing while the warm water 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.