The first day of spring is March 20, 2023, and as this report is being written it is about a week ahead of the official arrival of spring. As I am preparing this report, I am happy to be able to tell you that signs of the spring fishing season that lies ahead are already taking place out on the water with catches of quality sized yellowtail being made aboard full day trips to fish Los Coronado Islands.
Seaforth Sportfishing and Fisherman’s Landing report that the yellowtail they have been catching at Los Coronado Islands have been in the 15-to-25-pound range. The best day of yellowtail fishing saw San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing fish a full day trip with 27 anglers who caught 33 yellowtail, 15 rockfish and 80 whitefish. That same day also saw Liberty out of Fisherman’s Landing have 29 anglers on a full day trip catch 12 yellowtail, 55 whitefish, 2 lingcod and 50 whitefish.
Yo-yo iron has been working best for the yellowtail with dropper loop fished sardines also producing some hookups. Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X, Salas 7X and Salas 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white, sardine and scrambled egg colors. Most of the yellowtail activity has been found while working sonar marks found on the warm water side of a temperature break off the weather side of North Island. The cooler water has been down around 56.5 degrees and the warmer water had been up around 58.5 degrees.
The bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands has also been good for a mix of reds, salmon grouper, an assortment of rockfish and an occasional lingcod. Best areas for the mixed bag bottom fishing have been to the northwest and north of North Island in 30 to 60 fathoms.
When the weather allows, sportboats out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been running what are mostly 1.5-day trips down the Mexican coast to fish the Punta Colnett and Punta Camalu areas. These Mexican coast trips have been finding very good fishing for a mix of reds, salmon grouper, lingcod, and an assortment of rockfish. In addition to the bottom fish species there have been a few calico bass and barracuda biting along with a chance at finding some yellowtail. The more recent trips have had very good fishing for the bottom fish species including lingcod and have found a few bass and barracuda biting but have found the yellowtail fishing to be slow. If you do locate some Punta Colnett area yellowtail good choices have been yo-yo iron or dropper loop fished sardines.
An ongoing reminder to anglers regarding the fishing above the Mexico border is that they need to keep in mind that the annual seasonal rockfish/groundfish remains in effect and runs through March 31, 2023. During the closure period anglers will need to travel into Mexican waters if they want to fish for the rockfish/groundfish species that are covered by the closure.
I suggest you go to the DFW website and familiarize yourself with the closure areas throughout the State of California and what are quite a few new rockfish/groundfish regulations for 2023. There is a December 20, 2022, news release that goes over the changes that is entitled “New Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations Coming In The New Year.”
With the rockfish/groundfish closure still in effect, anglers fishing along the San Diego County coast are focusing their attention on fishing for species that remain open to fishing such as sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, whitefish, halibut, white seabass, and yellowtail.
There continues to be occasional yellowtail activity found at La Jolla, but the yellowtail fishing has been slow without much being caught. The occasional reports of yellowtail activity usually come from the area ranging from the outskirts of the MLPA closure zone that is located at the lower end of La Jolla on up to the lower edge of the La Jolla Canyon that is located above the upper end of La Jolla.
The yellowtail found at La Jolla have been quality sized fish with most in the 20-to-30-pound class and a good depth range to locate yellows has been in 18 to 35 fathoms. Yellowtail are usually found around schools of bait and once located either visually or with the electronics, anglers have been reporting getting an occasional bite on surface iron, yo-yo iron or dropper loop fished sardines or mackerel.
Aside from the sporadic yellowtail activity at La Jolla coastal trips out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been finding their best overall fishing for a mix of sand bass, sculpin, and whitefish at the Imperial Beach Pipeline. Up and down the San Diego County coast, productive hard bottom and structure areas for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and whitefish listed from the south to the north include the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the north of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, Sunset Cliffs, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Leucadia, Carlsbad, the Anderson Pipeline, the Buccaneer Pipeline, the artificial reefs off Oceanside and Box Canyon.
Halibut fishing continues to be scratchy but there is an occasional legal sized halibut being caught. Areas that might be likely to produce a halibut along the San Diego County Coast listed from south to north include Imperial Beach, the Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon shipwreck outside of Mission Beach, South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs off Oceanside.
There have been some unconfirmed rumors about bluefin tuna activity in offshore waters but so far, nothing that I have been able to confirm. The first report was of some bluefin being seen around balls of bait 1.5 to 10 miles outside of Palos Verdes. The second report was of a bluefin being caught inside of San Clemente Island by the Mackerel Bank. The most recent report was of some bluefin being seen outside of Ensenada down about 70 miles from Point Loma. Hopefully some confirmed bluefin information will be able to be reported sometime soon.
There are still northern and western weather systems passing through Southern California which are bringing rain, wind, and high seas. Spend some time studying the weather forecast so you can do your fishing on one of the good weather days that the pre-spring season and the spring season have to offer. Keep on fishing and I hope to see you out on the water.
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.