SAN DIEGO – The fall fishing season continues to keep Southern California offshore anglers busy as there is still good fishing to target for a variety of species. Bluefin tuna continue to steal the spotlight with good numbers of bluefin biting for boats fishing the Cortes Bank. Those wishing to stay closer to San Diego have yellowtail to target along with a chance at scratching out a bluefin or yellowfin while fishing offshore areas within 35 miles or so of Point Loma, and the 9 Mile Bank has steadily been producing a few swordfish and still has a few marlin hanging around.
The bluefin tuna out by the Cortes Bank have been nice sized fish with most in the 30 to 80-pound range and with a few larger fish in the mix that go to 200-plus pounds. Boats have been fishing the Cortes Bank on trips that are usually 1.5-day trips or longer. As an example of the recent fishing, Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing just got back from a 3-day trip that saw 24 anglers catch 96 bluefin tuna up to 200 pounds. Another example was the fish count on El Capitan out of Point Loma Sportfishing that just returned from a 1.5-day trip that saw 18 anglers catch 34 bluefin tuna.
The best area for bluefin in recent days has been between the 50-fathom curve and the 500-fathom curve around the western and the northwestern edges of the Cortes Bank. Most of the bluefin have been caught while drifting over meter marks or sonar marks with occasional spots of breezing or breaking fish also leading to bluefin stops. Best baits for the bluefin have been sardines, kite fished frozen flying fish, flat fall jigs, and knife jigs. At last report, the water temperature at the Cortes Bank was running about 65 degrees.
Boats fishing some of the local offshore banks within 35 miles of Point Loma have been finding yellowtail biting around kelp paddies and have also been scratching out an occasional tuna. Most of the tuna activity has been bluefin tuna but there has also been a slight chance at finding a porpoise school that might be holding some yellowfin tuna. Most of the kelp-paddy yellowtail have been 3 to 10-pound fish. Spots of breaking 20 to 80-pound bluefin tuna are regularly being seen incidental to looking for the kelp-paddy yellowtail but for the most part it has been difficult to get the bluefin to bite.
Productive offshore areas for yellowtail, with the opportunity for tune, have been the back side of the 9 Mile Bank, the Coronado Canyon, the area 5 to 8 miles west of North Island, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 230 Spot, and the 371 Bank.
In more distant areas, there is also a recent report about some yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, and dorado biting outside of the Butterfly Bank. Additionally, at last report, boats fishing offshore waters outside of Ensenada were also finding biting yellowtail around kelp paddies along with a chance at scratching out a tuna while fishing around the 385 Spot, the 475 Spot, the 238 Spot, and the area to the southwest of the Banda Bank.
Striped marlin have been scarce but Captain Maurice Smith recently reported baiting a sleeper that he located outside of the lower-middle part of the 9 Mile Bank. Smith said the fish spooked before they got to within casting range and that they could not get it to bite their mackerel.
In addition to the 9 Mile Bank, Smith also looked at the Coronado Canyon and reported seeing a few spots of breaking bluefin and lots of bait (sauries and small mackerel.) Before looking around for marlin and tuna they first did some bottom fishing off North Island where they found good fishing for an assortment of reds and rockfish.
Boats that have been deep drop fishing for swordfish continue to pick away at an occasional swordfish while working the back side of the 9 Mile Bank and the 178 Spot. My estimate is that there were three to five swordfish caught over the past weekend. There were also a few heartbreaker reports about fish being lost after hard fought battles. One Skipper reporting losing an estimated 200-plus pound swordfish 10 feet away from the boat when the hook was pulled out after a 2.5-hour struggle. On a high note, Fisherman’s Landing reported that the Bight 28 was fishing a recent swordfish trip where they had two anglers catch two swordfish. A frozen large squid tends to be the best bait for swordfish.
The reports coming from boats fishing around Los Coronado Islands have been about good bottom fishing while working hard bottom to the north and northwest of North Island in the 30 to 50-fathom depths. There has been a nice mix of reds, salmon grouper and assorted rockfish biting along with an occasional bonus lingcod. A private boater also recently reported catching a few lingcod in shallower water at spots in closer to North Island. There has not been much reported in the way of surface fishing activity at Los Coronado Islands since a few bonito were reported to have been biting along the weather side of North Island about 10 days ago.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mixed bag of reds, rockfish, whitefish, sculpin, bonito, and bass. Fishing for yellowtail, halibut, and white seabass remains difficult.
The highlight of San Diego coastal fishing of the past week has been for a mix of calico bass, bonito, rockfish, and sculpin that have been biting for boats fishing the Jetty Kelp off Mission Bay. The afternoon hours have been best for the calicos and some near limit to limit catches of calico bass have come from this zone. The water in the Jetty Kelp area has been at 67 degrees and the water has been clean.
Other productive areas for the mixed bag coastal fishing have been the International Reef, the Imperial Beach Pipeline, hard bottom areas around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 off Point Loma, hard bottom areas off the Green Tank at Point Loma, the 270 located to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia, and Box Canyon.
There is not much new to report on the halibut fishing. Areas where an occasional legal sized halibut has been reported in recent weeks are Imperial Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck outside of Mission Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower outside of 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 offshore fishing season continues to produce some impressive fish. As long as the water stays warm the fish are likely to stay with us a while longer. I hope you can get out on the water and enjoy some of this fun 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.