Bluefin, Yellowfin, Yellowtail, Bonito and Dorado Biting Offshore!

SAN DIEGO— The summer fishing season is now in full swing with lots of fun fishing to be found offshore at the Coronado Islands and along the coast.

Bluefin tuna continues to be the highlight of offshore fishing with the best bluefin area in the waters ranging from westerly of the 499 Spot located off the back side of Catalina on out to the waters easterly of San Nicolas Island in the region of the 563 Spot.

Bluefin continue to be caught both day and night. During the dark, bluefin have been biting best on sinker rigged sardines and knife jigs that are fished while boats are drifting over sonar marks or fathometer marks. During daylight hours, boats have been fishing around sonar marks, meter marks, breaking fish, and breezing fish. Anglers have been getting bluefin bites on Nomad Madmac trolling jigs, spreader bar trolling rigs, Flat Fall jigs, knife jigs, sinker rigged or flylined sardines, Colt Snipers, poppers, surface iron, and stick baits. Nomad Madmac trolling jigs have emerged as one of the top bluefin producers for private boaters when trolled at 11 to 14 knots.

Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported a recent trip for bluefin. He said they caught a 60-pound bluefin and a 100-pound bluefin on Nomad Madmac jigs that were being trolled between 11 and 13 knots. The 60-pound fish bit on a size 240 Nomad Madmac in pink and the 100-pound fish bit on a size 200 Nomad Madmac in a sardine color.

Golding said both bluefin were caught late in the day in areas where they were seeing breaking bluefin out to the west-southwest of the 499 Spot. The 60-pound bluefin was hooked in 67.96-degree water and the 100-pound bluefin was hooked in 66.75-degree water. These two fish were caught between 94 and 99 miles and 280 to 281 degrees from Point Loma.

Another to target during a day of offshore fishing is to fish an area providing a good mixed bag of yellowtail, dorado, and bonito along with a chance at catching a few bonus bluefin tuna or yellowfin tuna. The northern end of this large zone is where there have been a few dorado found around kelp paddies in the region of the 209 Spot and the 181 Spot with the more southerly areas offering more of a mixed bag catch for boats working spots ranging from the 182 Spot (located outside of San Diego) on down to the area of the Upper 500 Bank that is located outside of Ensenada. Productive areas within that zone have been the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, 5 to 8 miles west of North Island, the 425 Bank, the 371 Bank, the 390 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank, the Lower Hidden Bank and the Upper 500 Bank. The region of the Upper Hidden Bank has often been the best of these spots for boats fishing 35 to 40 miles 170 to 190 degrees from Point Loma.

Most of the good dorado and yellowtail bites originate from kelp paddies. The few tunas that are being caught have been coming from spots of breaking fish the area around the 224 Spot is currently the best for a chance at catching a bluefin tuna within 40 miles of San Diego. What has been nice abut the kelp-paddy yellowtail fishing is that a good percentage of the yellowtail being caught have been in the 8 to 20-pound range with a few bigger yellows up to 25 pounds found in the mix. Some of the better trips have caught limits of yellowtail, several dorado, a good number of bonito, a few bonus bluefin and maybe a yellowfin or two.

A recent full day trip on the six-pack charter yacht El Gato Dos out of Seaforth Sportfishing had a fish count that is a good example of the good mixed bag fishing that has been going on in the waters within 40 miles of Point Loma. Their recent full day trip had 5 anglers catch 19 yellowtail, 1 yellowfin tuna, 1 bonito, and 5 bluefin tuna.

The fishing at Los Coronado Islands has been good for a mixed bag of yellowtail, barracuda, calico bass, an assortment of bottom fish species and an occasional halibut or white seabass. As an example of the fishing, the most recent full day trip on San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing had 32 anglers catch 30 yellowtail, 14 barracuda, and 13 calico bass.

The best of the yellowtail fishing has come from the Pukey Point and Keyhole areas of North Island with some yellows also biting at the Middle Grounds, the weather side of South Island and the north end of South Island. Private boaters have been doing well on yellowtail using sardines that are slow trolled or flylined. Surface iron also accounts for some yellowtail bites and there have also been some yellowtail bites on trolled Rapalas.

The best spots for calico bass and barracuda have been at kelp bed areas at South Island and the Middle Grounds with the hard bottom at the north end of South Island producing some calicos and barries. Sardines and surface iron have been good baits for the calico bass and barracuda. When available, anchovies will also work well for the calico bass. Good choices for surface iron for calico bass, barracuda, and yellowtail include Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in the blue and white color combination, mint, and sardine colors.

A recent private boater report was of good fishing for calico bass, barracuda, and a 25-pound white seabass while casting surface iron at the hard bottom area outside of the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island. Occasional white seabass have also been caught at “The Shack” area along the lee side of North Island. Look for a spot where you might be able to beach a panga along the lee side of North Island and that will mark the area of “The Shack” where there was once a lobster shack there for commercial lobster fishermen.

An occasional halibut has been caught while drifting sandy bottom areas along the lee side of South Island. The best zones for the assorted rockfish species have been at the Rockpile and at hard bottom areas to the north and the northwest of North Island. Whitefish have also been biting well in the lee of North Island. A good depth range for the rockfish type species 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 along with a chance at catching a bonus yellowtail, lingcod, halibut, or white seabass. The not so good news is that the surface fishing along the San Diego County coast has been effected by a recent cooling of the water that has caused the temperature to drop into the low to middle 60’s. The calico bass and yellowtail fishing has slowed some with the decline in the water temperature. The good news is that the water along the coast has started warming again and that there is improving fishing for calico bass at some kelp bed areas to go with a chance at finding a biting yellowtail at La Jolla. The surface fishing along the San Diego County coast has been going up and down like a yo-yo with the changes in the water temperature!

Productive areas for calico bass include the Point Loma Kelp Beds, the La Jolla Kelp Beds, Del Mar, Leucadia and Carlsbad. What has been a key to finding a good calico bass bite is to find a kelp bed area where you find your warmest and cleanest water with a moderate downhill current flow. When available, anchovies are the preferred bait for the calico bass which have also been biting on sardines.

The upper end of La Jolla has been the best zone to try for a yellowtail along the San Diego County coast and yellows have been located anywhere from the kelp line on out to 25 fathoms. The yellowtail biting at La Jolla have been good-sized fish with a good percentage being up in the 15 to 20-pound range and with some bigger fish up to 40-plus pounds.

Sardines, mackerel, and surface iron have been good choices for yellowtail. The most recent reports have been of an occasional yellowtail hookup reported on slow trolled mackerel and slow trolled sardines. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7 X lights in blue and white, sardine, and mint colors.

The halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been fair. Areas that have been providing a chance at a halibut 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.

With the recent cooling of the water causing a slowing of the calico bass bite in the kelp beds, some boats have shifted over to fishing for rockfish until the calico bass bite rallies. 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 summer fishing season usually offers anglers a lot of good choices in what to target during a day of fishing and this year is no exception. I hope you take advantage of the good fishing going on and that you get a chance to get out on the water and do some fishing sometime soon. Don’t let the summer fishing season pass you by! 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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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