The fall fishing season has been having to battle some weather systems that have brought strong winds, high seas, and a bit of rain but the good thing is that during the days of good weather there has been good fishing to be found for bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, dorado and yellowtail along with a chance at a striped marlin. As this report is being written, there is a strong weather system passing through Southern California that has caused Small Craft Advisories and Gale Warnings to be posted. Time will tell what effect these strong winds will have on the water conditions and the fishing but for the time being, there were areas of offshore fishing heading into the current bad weather situation.
The bluefin tuna fishing has been leading the way during the entirety of the 2021 fishing season and the bluefin bite on fish running from 20 to 270-plus has been ranging from pretty good to good for those fishing at the Cortes Bank and the Tanner Bank. Elsewhere, there has also been pretty good to good mixed bag offshore fishing for yellowfin tuna, 15 to 50-pound bluefin tuna, mixed size dorado, and mixed-size yellowtail for boats fishing some of the offshore banks between the 9 Mile Bank off San Diego and the 450 Spot below and outside of Ensenada. Those interested in marlin fishing have found some recent marlin activity around the 371 Bank and the 101 Spot below and outside of Los Coronado Islands.
The fishing at the Tanner Bank and the Cortes Bank has been producing bluefin tuna that have been ranging from 20 to 270-plus pounds. The fishing around the high spot at the Tanner Bank has been producing what are mostly the 20 to 80-pound bluefin tuna for boats that have been anchoring in18 to 30 fathoms.
Those Skippers that want to focus more on the jumbo-sized bluefin tend to find the best fishing for the larger fish while working in depths ranging from 40 to 350 fathoms. The best areas for the jumbo-sized bluefin fishing in recent days have been in 40 to 350 fathoms while fishing to the northeast of the Tanner Bank high spot, to the northwest of the Tanner Bank high spot, to the northwest of the 9 Fathom Spot at the Cortes Bank and to the northeast of the 9 Fathom Spot at the Cortes Bank.
The best bait to target the jumbo-sized bluefin remains a frozen flying fish that is fished from a kite or a helium-filled balloon. Also effective for mixed size bluefin are sardines, mackerel, flat fall jigs, and knife jigs with the flat fall jigs and the knife jigs often being the best things to try in the dark.
Elsewhere, boats fishing offshore banks ranging from the 9 Mile Bank outside of Point Loma on down to the offshore banks outside of Ensenada have been finding fair to sometimes good fishing for a mix of yellowfin tuna, 15 to 50-pound bluefin tuna, dorado, and yellowtail. The bite has been hit or miss and erratic from day to day but there have been some good bites to be found.
Private boater Tom Parnakian of Ambush went out on a recent trip aboard the sport boat San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing and reported about the trip. He said they fished offshore banks below and outside of Los Coronado Islands and had a fun time with 32 anglers catching 149 yellowtail and 53 dorado. Parnakian said they found a good kelp paddy for a wide-open bite on 5-pound yellowtail and that he personally caught 3 yellowtail from that kelp paddy. He said he could have caught more but that he did not need anymore to take home. After leaving the yellowtail kelp paddy he said they found a few more kelp paddies that produced a few dorado before locating a kelp paddy that went wide open and produced a very good dorado bite. Parnakian reported catching a 15-pound dorado from the hot kelp-paddy bite and said that he enjoyed his trip aboard the San Diego.
Productive areas for the dorado, yellowtail, bluefin, and yellowfin have been the 9 Mile Bank, the Coronado Canyon, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 230 Spot, the San Salvador Knoll, the 371 Bank, the 425 Bank, the 475 Knuckle, the Upper Hidden Bank, the Lower Hidden Bank, the Upper 500 Spot, the 295 Bank, and the 450 Spot.
A good thing about the recent fishing is that the best area for bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna for boats fishing within 50 miles of Point Loma is not far from San Diego for boats fishing at the 9 Mile Bank and the Coronado Canyon. Heading into the current period of bad weather there were some large schools of breaking bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna showing during the morning hours and there were some biting bluefin and yellowfin to be found by casting sardines, surface iron, and poppers to the spots of breaking fish. With windy weather in the forecast for the next two days, it will be interesting to see what effect the windy weather will have on the water conditions and the fishing.
Marlin fishing has been slow with very few boats out looking but there is still some marlin activity being reported in the San Diego region. A recent report from Captain Barry Brightenburg of the 6 pack charter yacht Limitless out of Dana Landing was that he saw a marlin caught and released by a boat fishing outside of Los Coronado Islands while fishing by the 371 Bank. Another recent report came from private boater Jeff Meeker of Doghouse who was fishing below Los Coronado Islands in the area above the 101 Spot when he had a jumper marlin come up and put on an acrobatic aerial circus show. It sounded like a spectacular jumper marlin show with the fish jumping at least 10 times in doing a circle around the boat. Meeker baited the area and did some trolling tacks with the jigs but could not get anything to bite.
There have not been many boats fishing Los Coronado Islands lately but a recent trip on Grande out of H&M Landing fished a full day trip to Los Coronado Islands with 25 anglers who caught 1 yellowtail, 2 bonito, and 147 rockfish.
The best areas around Los Coronado Islands for surface fishing have been the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island, and the South Kelp below South Island. To help locate yellowtail or bonito, look for meter marks, sonar marks, trolling strikes on Rapalas, or trolling strikes on slow trolled sardines. It can also be worthwhile looking around for kelp paddies and spots of breaking bluefin out to as far as the 100-fathom curve outside of the Islands.
The best calico bass fishing has been found around South Island at places such as the South Kelp, the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island, the Ribbon Kelp and the north end of South Island. A couple of productive areas for reds and rockfish have been at hard bottom areas to the north and northwest of North Island in 35 to 50 fathoms and at hard bottom spots in the region of the Rockpile.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mixed bag of reds, rockfish, whitefish, sculpin, and a few bass. The yellowtail fishing along the coast has been slow but the best chance at scratching out a yellowtail has been at the upper end of La Jolla. The kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla have also been one of the best spots for trying to get a calico bass bite going.
Boats fishing out of San Diego Bay have been seeing improved bass fishing and have been finding good mixed bag fishing for calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, and rockfish at hard bottom areas to the northwest of Buoy #3 off Point Loma.
Productive spots for the reds and rockfish for boats fishing along the San Diego County coast have been the region of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, The 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia and Box Canyon.
Halibut fishing has been spotty but if you want to give it a try, places, where occasional legal-sized halibut have been reported to have been caught in recent weeks, have been Imperial Beach, the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, outside of South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs off Oceanside.
The fall fishing season can provide some of the best offshore fishing of the year and it is yet to be seen what the effect will be of the early season weather systems that have been passing through Southern California. Time will tell what will happen during the upcoming weeks. Old Man Winter will eventually win, but the great thing is that for the time being, there is still good fishing to report! I hope you can get out on the water and enjoy the fall fishing! 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.