SAN DIEGO— This has been a summer fishing season filled with an abundance of game fish for Southern California offshore anglers and it appears as if that bounty is going to roll right into the upcoming fall season with bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, dorado, yellowtail, and striped marlin biting offshore. Rumors about wahoo caught in Southern California offshore waters abound and hopefully some of these rumors will prove true so that wahoo can be added to the list of fish that are biting offshore.
Anglers were anxious to know what effect the nearby passing of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Kay might have on the local offshore fishing. After two days of boats being tied to the dock waiting for Kay to pass, anglers got their answer with the winds and rain associated with Kay having little effect on the fishing in local offshore waters. If anything, the yellowfin fishing has improved in the days after Kay.
The expanse of fish ranges from the area of the Channel Islands on down to the offshore waters below and outside of Ensenada with anglers going to different areas within that large stretch of ocean to target different species.
Bluefin tuna to 200-plus pounds continue to be the most sought after species for a lot of anglers and the large bluefin remain a possibility for boats fishing out to the west of the West End of San Clemente Island, the Mackerel Bank, the 499 Spot and the area below the closure zone by the Osborn Bank.
Elsewhere, mixed size bluefin up to 100 pounds remain in the picture at spots such as the 178 Spot, the 9 Mile Bank, the Coronado Canyon and the area ranging from west of North Island on down to the waters around the 425 Bank, the 101 Spot and the 475 Knuckle. Bluefin have been biting both day and night with Nomad Madmac jigs, flying fish, sinker rigged sardines, flylined sardines, knife jigs and spreader bar rigs being top producers.
The dorado fishing remains red hot for boats fishing areas in the Catalina region. Hot spot dorado bites are being found around kelp paddies found in the region of the 277 Spot, the 289 Spot and 209 Spot. Most of the dorado have been running from 8 to 20 pounds and have been biting best on sardines.
In other areas, the dorado bite has been more hit or miss and scattered for boats fishing around the 267 Spot outside of Dana Point as well as the 181 Spot, the 312 Spot, the 178 Spot, the 9 Mile Bank, the 182 Spot, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 425 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank, the 475 Knuckle, the Lower Hidden Bank, the Upper 500 Bank and the 238 Spot.
The yellowfin tuna fishing improved after the recent storm, boats that have gone out after the storm have found good numbers of yellowfin biting at some of the offshore banks in the San Diego region. Productive yellowfin areas have been the 178 Spot, the 9 Mile Bank, the end of the Ridge below the 182 Spot, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 425 Bank and the 371 Bank. Of all those locations, the best recent reports have come from boats fishing around the 302 and 371.
Skippers have been reporting getting yellowfin tuna blind trolling strikes on 10 to 20 pound yellowfin which have been leading to baitfish on flylined sardines. There have also been improved numbers of yellowfin biting from drifting live sardines around kelp paddies. Colt Sniper jigs have also been worth a try around the kelp paddies and while drifting and chumming after getting a trolling strike. The yellowfin bite improved so much after the storm that San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing had 35 anglers on a full day trip catch 103 yellowfin tuna.
A private boater report on the yellowfin was of catching 6 yellowfin in just a couple of hours of fishing time out by the 224 Spot. The report was of getting troll strikes on cedar plugs and Rapalas and then hooking baitfish on flylined sardines after a trolling strike. His best fishing was being found at 23 miles 238 degrees from Point Loma.
The fishing for striped marlin has been good for boats fishing in the Catalina area while working the region of the 270 Spot and 286 Spot that are located between the West End of Catalina and the mainland. This was a hotspot zone for the two days of fishing in the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament. In the Catalina region, marlin have also been regularly hooked by anglers fishing kelp paddies for dorado in the region of the 267 Spot, 277 Spot and 209 Spot. Most of the kelp paddy related hookups are eventually lost due to the lack of a leader that is heavy enough to endure a prolonged battle with a marlin and hold up against the abrasion of the marlin’s bill.
In the San Diego sector there is occasional striped marlin activity reported by boats fishing the region of the La Jolla Canyon, the 9 Mile Bank, the area inside of the 100 fathom curve between La Jolla and Point Loma and the area ranging from 4 to 8 miles west to northwest of North Island.
Captain Bob Woodard Jr. of Dropback reported catching and releasing a marlin while fishing local to San Diego. Woodard said things were looking fishy on the way out while just 4 miles off the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma. He decided to slow the boat down and put the jigs in and his instincts were right on point as they got bit on a KK Pono jig in the Mean Joe Green color while they were setting the jigs out. They were able to successfully catch and release that marlin and it was their only marlin action of the day.
The fishing around Los Coronado Islands remains pretty good for a mix of yellowtail, calico bass, barracuda, bonito and an assortment of bottom fish species. Heading into the recent storm, some of the best days of fishing were producing near limit to limit numbers of yellowtail. The best areas for yellowtail have been the Pukey Point area of North Island, the Middle Grounds and the Ribbon Kelp along the lee side of South Island. As an example of the fishing after the storm, the Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing had a full day trip with 27 anglers catch 10 yellowtail, 20 whitefish, 1 halibut, 1 lingcod and 25 calico bass.
Private boaters have been reporting success with yellowtail while slow trolling or flylining sardines. The yellowtail have ranged from 6 to 20 pounds. The most recent private boater reports have been of finding their best yellowtail activity at Pukey Point at North Island, along the lee side of South Island and at the Middle Grounds.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, bonito, sculpin, reds, rockfish, whitefish and an occasional halibut or yellowtail. Water conditions remain good with 71 to 73 degree mostly clean green to off color green water being reported.
Good calico bass kelp bed areas have been the Point Loma Kelp Beds, La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia, Carlsbad and the Barn. When available, anchovies are the preferred bait for the calico bass which have also been biting well on sardines. Imperial Beach continues to produce pretty good numbers of sand bass with meter marks producing sand bass at the Imperial Beach Pipeline and out to the southwest of the Imperial Beach Pier in 70 to 80 feet. The Imperial Beach and Point Loma Kelp Bed areas have also been producing occasional flurries of 1 to 2 pound bonito.
Captain Joe Cacciola of the Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reports fishing kelp bed areas below Oceanside Harbor and finding good mixed bag fishing for calico bass, sand bass, sheephead, short sized barracuda, short sized white seabass and an assortment of bottom fish species. Productive kelp bed areas have been at South Carlsbad, Leucadia, Encinitas and Solana Beach.
Cacciola advises that flylining a mini-mac sized mackerel or a sardine into the kelp can help anglers target a legal sized calico bass. He also reports doing well with calicos of all sizes by fishing and chumming with sardine chunks.
The upper end of La Jolla continues to be the best for a chance at a coastal yellowtail with yellows being located anywhere from the kelp line on out to 25 fathoms. Sardines, mackerel and surface iron have been good choices for yellowtail and private boaters have also had success when slow trolling mackerel or sardines. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7 X lights in blue & white, sardine and mint colors.
There have not been many people trying for halibut along the San Diego County coast lately and the few reports are that the halibut fishing has been difficult. Areas that have been providing a chance at a halibut in recent weeks 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.
It has been a fine summer fishing season and that summer season looks like it is getting ready to roll right over into a fine fall fishing season. Be it summer or fall, I hope you can get out on the water and get in on the fun! 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.