Near Limit-to-Limit Bluefin Tuna Fishing

SAN DIEGO⸺ The past couple of weeks have brought a lot of windy weather to Southern California and Northern Baja offshore waters but the unsettled sea conditions have not had much of an effect on the bluefin tuna bite as the days of fishable weather have provided near limit-to-limit bluefin tuna fishing. Recent days of bluefin fishing have been very good and have seen a high percentage of the San Diego Bay and Mission Bay overnight, one-and-a-half-day and two-day sportboat fleet returning with limits of bluefin tuna.


Most of the bluefin have been in the 25 to 60-pound range with some bigger fish up to 130 pounds. Some of the best bluefin fishing continues to be found in the dark but the daylight hours have also been productive and provided good bluefin fishing.


During the hours of dark, bluefin have been located by finding sonar marks or meter marks. Once bluefin are located, anglers have been drifting and fishing with knife jigs, flat fall jigs and sinker rigged sardines. Boats with scanning sonar have a definite advantage in locating bluefin in this style of fishing. During daylight hours bluefin stops have come from stopping on sonar marks, spots of breezing fish, spots of breaking fish and the occasional bluefin trolling strike. Once located, the daylight bluefin have been biting on sinker rigged sardines, flylined sardines, knife jigs, flat fall jigs, Colt Snipers, Megabaits, trolled spreader bars and trolled daisy chain rigs.


Bluefin have been biting in an area ranging from the Upper Hidden Bank 40 miles from Point Loma on down to the waters outside of Ensenada while fishing around the Lower Hidden Bank, the Upper 500 Bank, and the 295 Bank. The most recent area for the best bluefin fishing has been for boats working outside of Ensenada in an area ranging from inside of the Upper 500 Bank on down to the 500 fathom curve above the 295 Bank. This hot bite zone is spread from 50 to 60 miles 177 to 180 degrees from Point Loma.


Closer to Point Loma, there have been occasional showings of bluefin tuna at the 9 Mile Bank but the showings of bluefin in that zone have been sporadic. There was also an unconfirmed report about a recent showing of bluefin off La Jolla.


Boats fishing around Los Coronado Islands have been enjoying good mixed bag fishing for whitefish, reds, an assortment of rockfish, and a few lingcod. There has also been an occasional yellowtail biting along with a chance at finding a few biting calico bass. The recent windy weather has caused a water temperature drop around Los Coronado Islands with 58 to 61-degree water being reported. This decline in the water temperature has not affected the good bottom fishing but has had an adverse effect on the yellowtail and calico bass bites.


The surface fishing could be on it’s way to improving though as there was a spike in yellowtail activity yesterday when San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing made a catch that included two yellowtail. Those were the first yellowtail reported in nearly a week and could be a sign of good things soon to come. San Diego fished a full-day trip and had 12 anglers catch 2 yellowtail, 1 calico bass, 1 lingcod, 20 reds, 3 whitefish, 13 rockfish, and 3 sheephead.


Yellowtail around Los Coronado Islands have been found in the weather side of North Island, the hard bottom to the northeast of North Island, the Middle Grounds, and the weather side of South Island with the weather side of North Island being the best. Most of the yellowtail have been located by finding sonar marks with occasional yellowtail activity being found by locating meter marks, spots of breezing fish or spots of breaking fish.


The yellowtail around Los Coronado Islands have been ranging from 12 to 25 pounds. Try yo-yo iron and dropper loop fished sardines when you locate yellowtail down deep and try surface iron and flylined sardines when you locate yellows near the surface. Good choices for yo-yoed iron include Salas 6X and Salas 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white and scrambled egg colors. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in blue and white, mint, and sardine colors.


Before the recent drop in water temperature calico bass were getting more active around Los Coronado Islands. Productive areas for calicos have been the Middle Grounds, the north end of South Island, the Ribbon Kelp and the South Kelp.


Good numbers of reds, rockfish, salmon grouper, and whitefish continue to bite around Los Coronado Islands. One of the best areas for the bottom fishing has been at hard bottom spots to the north and the northwest of North Island in 30 to 50 fathoms. Another productive bottom fishing zone producing lingcod has been fishing hard bottom areas around the Rockpile in 20 to 45 fathoms.


Boats fishing along much of the San Diego County coast have also experienced a recent drop in water temperature with the water temperature in some areas dropping down into the 54 to 57-degree range. The cooler water has not slowed the good bottom fishing for reds, rockfish, whitefish, and an occasional lingcod but it has had a negative effect on the yellowtail and calico bass activity.


Captain Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reports that he and the other Oceanside Sea Center boats have been finding good fishing for a mix of rockfish, sculpin, reds, and whitefish. Cacciola added that on a recent trip he found some calico bass biting at the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor. Cacciola reports they have been fishing in water as warm as 62 degrees but say that the water has mostly been off color with some areas going through a red tide condition. Productive areas for the bottom fishing were reported to be at hard bottom spots off Camp Pendleton as well as hard bottom spots between south Leucadia and Torrey Pines.


La Jolla has been the best zone to try and locate yellowtail along the San Diego County coast but the yellowtail showings have slowed with the recent breezy weather bringing about a drop in the water temperature. There was some encouraging news this morning as a skipper fishing off La Jolla reported finding some birds working around porpoise. He reported making a cast to the area of working birds with surface iron and getting a yellowtail hookup but unfortunately the fish was lost.


Areas where yellowtail have had the tendency to show in the La Jolla region are off Pacific Beach, off the upper end of La Jolla, and off Torrey Pines. A good depth has been 18 to 30 fathoms. The best bet once yellowtail have been located is to try surface iron or yo-yo iron. Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X Jr. and Salas 6X jigs in the blue and white color combination. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in sardine colors, the blue and white combination and mint.


The best areas for the rockfish fishing along the San Diego County coast listed from south to the north have been the International Reef, the hard bottom to the southeast and to the west of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, The 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Del Mar, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, and Box Canyon.


There has been a mix of sand bass, calico bass, and sculpin biting at hard bottom and structure spots. Productive areas have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the north-northwest of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp off Pacific Beach, the upper end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs off Oceanside, and Box Canyon.


Halibut fishing continues to be generally slow with an occasional halibut being reported. Hopefully the halibut bite is starting to pick up as today there was a report about a 40-pound halibut caught by a boat drifting off South Ponto Beach at South Carlsbad. In recent weeks there have been halibut caught in Imperial Beach, San Diego Bay, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, the sandy bottom next to the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline, and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs off Oceanside.


The spring fishing season suffered a setback due to a couple of weeks of windy weather conditions. The very good news is that the bluefin tuna bite held up strong during the windy weather and that the past couple of days have seen the weather settle down and improve. Look for the spring surface fishing at Los Coronado Islands and along the San Diego County coast to pick back up and continue to improve as the windy weather subsides. I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and enjoy the spring time fun. 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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