The first couple of weeks of the 2024 fishing season are in the books and the New Year has brought with it some recent stormy weather in the way of gale force winds, high seas and a bit of rain. The good news is that the days of good weather have been providing good coastal and island fishing with water temperatures holding in the low 60’s in quite a few areas. That is some relatively warm water considering the stormy weather we have experienced during the first couple of weeks of the New Year.
There has not been any recent news about bluefin tuna offshore but I do not know of anyone who has been out looking. With water temperatures holding around the 60 to 63 degree range at some of the local offshore banks off Point Loma it would not be such a big surprise if there were some bluefin tuna to be found in offshore waters within 1.5 day range of Point Loma. The last reports of bluefin were from about a month ago when there were some bluefin around the 182 Spot, 302 Spot, off the stretch of coast between La Jolla and Encinitas as well as down the Mexican coast outside of both Punta Colnett and San Martin Island.
A reminder to anglers is that the annual rockfish closure on the United States side of the Mexico border went into effect on New Years Day and that the closure will remain in effect until April 1, 2024. During this time period anglers wishing to fish for rockfish will need to do so in Mexican waters. An additional reminder is that the fishing for sheephead on the United States side of the Mexico border will be closed until March 1, 2024. Please refer t o the Department of Fish and Wildlife website for all the details about the various closures at www.wildlife.ca.gov.
Los Coronado Islands have been a productive area for those wishing to get away from the rockfish closure in United States waters and do some rockfish fishing. The rockfish fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been good and productive rockfish areas have been at the hard bottom to the northwest, north and northeast of North Island in the 25 to 60 fathom depths and at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in the 25 to 45 fathom depths. If you are out fishing in the region of Los Coronado Islands it might be a good idea to keep a lookout for signs of bonito or yellowtail activity in the region of Los Coronado Islands and at the Flats area outside of the Bull Ring at Tijuana.
Further down the Mexican coast more and more sportboats out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay will likely be targeting rockfish, lingcod and yellowtail on 1.5 day trips to fish the waters in the Punta Colnett region. Horizon out of H&M Landing fished a recent 1.5 day trip to the Punta Colnett region and had 9 anglers catch their limits of assorted rockfish and 18 lingcod.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been highlighted by some surface fishing activity in the La Jolla area with fair numbers of big bonito biting along with an occasional yellowtail. There was also a recent catch of a yellowtail off Imperial Beach. In addition to the yellowtail and bonito, the fishing up and down the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, whitefish and an occasional halibut.
Productive areas for the sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and whitefish include the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank, the Variety Kelp at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, the Barn and San Onofre. There have also been a few halibut biting off San Onofre drifting sandy bottom near structure in 35 to 50 feet.
La Jolla remains the best place for a chance at a coastal yellowtail with an occasional nice sized yellowtail to 35 pounds being reported. Most yellowtail hookups have been on yo-yo iron or surface iron that are fished around areas of bait found in 14 to 40 fathoms. Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X and Salas 6X Jr. jigs in scrambled egg color. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45 and Salas 7X light jigs in blue and white, mint and sardine colors.
The best zones to try for a yellowtail off La Jolla have been along the outskirts of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla as well as outside of the upper end of La Jolla out in 14 to 30 fathoms. Most of the yellowtail have been caught from meter marks, sonar marks, spots of breaking fish and from fishing around schools of bait.
Most of the bonito have been in the 5 to 10 pound range and they have been found by locating trolling strikes, meter marks, sonar marks, shearwater birds and schools of bait. The bonito bite has been hit or miss but the better days have seen pretty good numbers of bonito to 10 pounds being caught.
Bonito have been biting in an area ranging from 2 to 4 miles to the west of Mission Bay on up to the area about 4 miles to the west of the upper end of La Jolla. The bonito have been found in 14 to 40 fathoms with trolling strikes on Rapalas or slow trolled Colt Snipers being the best way to locate the fish in recent days. Once bonito are located, flylined sardines and yo-yo iron have been working well. Productive yo-yo jigs have been Salas 6X jigs and Colt Snipers.
It is the middle of winter but in Southern California we are blessed with such good fishing that an angler can go out fishing on the good weather days at most any time of year and have a chance of catching some quality fish. 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 email@example.com.