Fish Report: Fall Season Seems Just Like Summer with Bluefin, Yellowfin, Yellowtail, Dorado and Striped Marlin Biting!

The fall fishing season is upon us and the offshore fishing continues to impress with a wide variety of offshore species still within easy reach of Southern California anglers. The bluefin tuna fishing has been leading the way during the 2021 fishing season and the bluefin bite on fish running from 20 to 270-plus pounds remains very good for those fishing at the Tanner Bank. Elsewhere, there is good mixed bag offshore fishing for yellowfin tuna, 15 to 50-pound bluefin tuna, mixed size dorado, and mixed-size yellowtail for boats fishing offshore banks below and outside of Los Coronado Islands. Those interested in marlin fishing saw the past weekend produced some biting marlin in the San Diego and Catalina areas.


The bluefin tuna fishing at the Tanner Bank has been and still is producing the headline-grabbing offshore fishing with anglers catching bluefin tuna that have gone up to 395.4 pounds and with the past couple of weeks seeing bluefin being caught that have ranged in size from 20 to 270-plus pounds. In addition to bluefin tuna, the Tanner Bank has also been producing some nice-sized yellowtail and an occasional yellowfin tuna.


The fishing around the high spot at the Tanner Bank has been providing good numbers of the 20 to 70-pound bluefin tuna and a few nice-sized yellowtail while either anchored or drifting in 18 to 30 fathoms. Most Skippers prefer fishing on the anchor while in these depths. Those Skippers that want to focus more on the jumbo-sized bluefin tend to find the best fishing for the larger fish while working deeper water in depths ranging from 50 to 350 fathoms. The best area for the jumbo-sized bluefin fishing in recent days has been out in 50 to 350 fathoms out to the west and the northwest of the Tanner Bank high spot.


Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported about fishing on a recent trip at the Tanner Bank. Golding was fishing with his boat partner Steve Kunitake and the two anglers caught seven bluefin tuna. Golding said that they each kept their two-fish limits of bluefin and that they released the rest.


Golding reported catching all of their bluefin while fishing on the anchor around the high spot at the Tanner Bank and he said they had success while anchored in 170 feet and in 150 feet. They caught all their fish on flylined sardines in what he described as a “plunker bite” while sitting on the anchor. Five of their bluefin were 35 to 40-pound fish and they also each caught a larger bluefin that was up in the 60 to 70-pound range. In addition to fishing on the anchor, Golding said they did some trolling in deeper water with a kite-trolled Yummy Flyer in an effort to target a jumbo-sized fish but said they could not get bit on the troll. Congratulations go out to Tom and Steve on their catch of limits of bluefin tuna plus three bluefin that were caught and released!


Private boater Floyd Sparks of Tuna Kahuna fished a recent trip to the Tanner Bank. He was fishing with friends Tobin Rippo and Jim Mitchell aboard and they had an incredible day of fishing for truly jumbo-sized bluefin tuna.  Sparks said that they caught and kept three bluefin that weighed 200 pounds, 200 pounds, and 270 pounds and that they also caught and released two additional 270-pound bluefin tuna. Wow!


Sparks said that all their bluefin were caught on kite fished or helium balloon fished flying fish. He said they also tried mackerel and had some bites on mackerel where the fish would scrape the bait but not eat the bait. He said their jumbo-sized bluefin were caught while fishing the deeper water to the northeast of the Tanner Bank high spot and said that the smaller-sized bluefin were more prevalent in closer to the high spot where boats were fishing while anchored. What an awesome catch of jumbo-sized bluefin tuna!  Congratulations go out to Floyd, Tobin, and Jim!


Boats fishing offshore banks below and outside of Los Coronado Islands are seeing improved fishing for a mix of 18 to 40-pound yellowfin tuna, 15 to 50-pound bluefin tuna, 6 to 15-pound dorado, and 5 to 15-pound yellowtail.


There is a good spread to the areas below and outside of Los Coronado Islands that have been producing the dorado, yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, and yellowtail. The 50 to 100-fathom curve outside of the stretch between North Island and the 27 Fathom Spot that is located below the Rockpile has been a productive zone for bluefin tuna and has also been an area that has produced some yellowfin tuna with porpoise. The 425 Bank, the 475 Knuckle, the 371 Bank, and the Upper Hidden Bank have been producing more of a mixed bag of yellowfin, bluefin, dorado, and yellowtail. The best area for dorado have been the trench outside of the 390 Bank and the region of the 450 Spot that is located above the 213 Bank.


The yellowfin tuna have mostly been biting from blind trolling strikes and from trolling strikes or stopping on meter marks that have been found around porpoise. There have also been some good yellowfin bait stops found after getting a trolling strike or after stopping on a meter mark or a sonar mark. Look for areas of working birds or spots of breaking fish to locate bluefin and it has been kelp paddies that have been producing most of the dorado and yellowtail.


The past weekend saw two tournaments running and there were a good number of boats out looking for marlin. What was found was that the good marlin bite up around Santa Barbara Island that had been going on the week before was no longer happening. When boats started looking to other areas what was found was that there were marlin biting at Catalina off of the stretch between the Farnsworth Bank and Ben Weston and that marlin were also biting in an area 4 to 7 miles off the coast between Mission Bay and La Jolla.


The area 4 to 7 miles off the coast between Mission Bay and La Jolla produced 2 marlin that were caught and released and both the marlin were located and caught by blind trolling strikes. The other productive marlin zone of the past weekend was off the backside of Catalina for boats fishing between the 100-fathom curve and the 150-fathom curve outside of the stretch between the Farnsworth Bank and Ben Weston. There were a few sleepers and feeders seen in this area with some strikes reported on trolled jigs and on trolled ballyhoo. My estimate was that 3 or 4 marlin were caught and released from this zone off Catalina on Saturday.


The surface fishing has improved at Los Coronado Islands with yellowtail, calico bass, bonito, and bluefin tuna biting. Sea Watch out of Seaforth Sportfishing fished a recent full-day trip around Los Coronado Islands and had 16 anglers catch 11 yellowtail, 9 bluefin tuna, 12 calico bass, 64 bonito, and 64 rockfish.


Bluefin tuna have been found in a few areas around Los Coronado Islands with the Lighthouse at the south tip of South Island and the South Kelp Ridge being good areas to take a look at. There have also been bluefin found outside of the stretch between North Island and the 27-fathom spot that is located below the Rockpile in 40 to 100 fathoms. Areas to take a look at for yellowtail have been the weather side of North Island, the Lighthouse at the south tip of South Island, and the lee side of North Island. Look for bonito along the weather side of North Island, at the Middle Grounds, at the Lighthouse at the south tip of South Island, and at the Rockpile. Calico bass have been biting best around South Island at spots such as the Ribbon Kelp, the north end of South Island, and the backside of South Island.


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 there has been a chance at scratching out a yellowtail at the upper end of La Jolla. The kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla have been best for trying to get a calico bass bite going. Water conditions along the coast have generally been improving so there is reason to think that the surface fishing along the coast could be improving sometime soon.


Productive areas for the reds and rockfish 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.


The halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been scratchy with one recent report about a couple of legal-sized halibut being caught off Mission Beach. Places, where occasional halibut have been reported 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 the early part of fall has seen a continuation of the great bluefin fishing of the summer and has also provided improved offshore fishing for yellowfin tuna, dorado, and yellowtail. Do not make the mistake of putting away your fishing gear too early. I hope you can get out on the water and enjoy some great 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 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


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