The 2023 fall offshore fishing season is present here and now and it is off to a fine start with good to very good mixed bag offshore fishing going on for bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and dorado along with a few yellowtail and striped marlin. The fall months can provide some of the best offshore fishing of the year as the fish tend to group up in pockets of warm water and sometimes go on feeding sprees to get ready to migrate to warmer waters for the winter. There are a lot of fish around right now that are spread out over many miles of ocean and things appear to be setting up for a fine fall fishing season.
Bluefin tuna have been running from 15 to 250-plus pounds with the majority of the fish being in the 25 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 hot bite area for the mix of bluefin, yellowfin, dorado and a few yellowtail is in the area of the Corner for boats fishing 30 to 36 miles 252 to 254 degrees from Point Loma. The great news is that there are also mixed bag catches of these fish coming from lots of other areas that include the 9 Mile Bank, the 182 Spot, the 178 Spot, the area 4 to 12 miles off the coast between La Jolla and Camp Pendleton, the 267 Spot off Dana Point, the 209 Spot, the 181 Spot, the 138 Spot, the 312 Spot, the 43 Fathom Spot and the area 5 to 14 miles to the southeast of Pyramid Head at San Clemente Island. Some of the better sportboat and private boat trips have been posting mixed bag catches that include limits of bluefin tuna along with a good numbers of yellowfin tuna and dorado.
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 biting at the Tanner Bank, the Cherry Bank, the 381 Spot, the 499 Spot and the deep water outside of the Farnsworth 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.
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 bluefin), Colt Snipers, knife jigs, poppers and surface iron. Trolling strikes are also being reported on bluefin, yellowfin and dorado with cedar plugs, feathers, Halco plugs, Nomad Madmac jigs, Rapalas and spreader bar rigs all being effective.
Striped marlin fishing is currently on the scratchy side of things but 8 days ago there was very good striped marlin fishing for boats fishing the Pesky’s Tournament. When last biting well the best area was in the region of the 286 Spot inside of the West End of Catalina and even though the bite has currently slowed the area of the 286 Spot and the nearby ridge above the West End of Catalina remain the best zones for a chance at a marlin. My estimation was that there was one marlin caught and released from this zone over the past weekend.
The marlin fishing in the San Diego region has also been scratchy with just an occasional marlin encounter being reported incidental to tuna fishing for boats working areas such as 3 to 10 miles off La Jolla, 2 to 4 miles off Mission Bay, the 178 Spot, the 9 Mile Bank, the 182 Spot and the Corner.
The fishing at Los Coronado Islands is pretty much of an unknown with regard to recent reports in that Los Coronado Islands have not received much attention due to the good offshore fishing going on in nearby offshore waters. At last report, the surface fishing was good for calico bass at the Middle Grounds and there was a bit of yellowtail activity found off the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island.
The bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been very good 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.
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 “regular” 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, bonito, sculpin, whitefish and sheephead and there has also been a chance at catching 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 the Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reports that calico bass have been biting for them at kelp bed and hard bottom areas off South Carlsbad, Leucadia and Solana Beach.
Sand bass have also been biting in spots and pretty good to sometimes good numbers of sand bass and lots of sculpin have been biting at the Imperial Beach Pipeline and the Point Loma Pipeline.
A new surface fishing development has been that bonito are biting off Imperial Beach and Point Loma. Some bonito have been biting while sitting on the anchor and fishing for bass and sculpin and other catches of bonito are being made by getting trolling strikes and then drifting and fishing with flylined sardines.
The yellowtail fishing along the San Diego County coast has been mostly slow but there has been an occasional yellowtail caught off La Jolla. Look for areas of bait, working birds, breaking fish, meter marks and sonar marks to locate yellowtail at La Jolla. 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 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, at the end of the sunken jetty off Coronado at the entrance to San Diego Bay, off Black’s Beach, off South Ponto Beach, at the Buccaneer Pipeline, at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and off of San Onofre.
The fall fishing season has arrived and is already producing very good fishing. I hope you do not make the mistake of putting your fishing tackle away for the season while the fish are still here. I hope you can get out on the water as much as possible and enjoy the fall 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.