Spring Fishing Continues to Produce Bluefin Tuna and Yellowtail!
We are solidly into the spring fishing season and Southern California anglers continue to find a mix of bluefin tuna, yellowtail and bonito biting in offshore waters. The fishing along the San Diego County coast and at Los Coronado Islands has been very good for an assortment of rockfish species but has yet to produce much in the way of surface fishing species such as calico bass, barracuda, bonito and yellowtail.
San Diego area anglers continue to see the water temperature warm into the 60-to-63-degree range after a winter that brought many storms that resulted in cold water temperatures that got down into the low 50’s. The early spring also saw areas of dirty water red tide conditions develop along the San Diego County coast and at Los Coronado Islands and as the water continues to both warm up and clean up anglers expect to see the development of better surface fishing along the coast, at Los Coronado Islands and offshore.
The past week or so of bluefin tuna fishing has seen what had been a good bite on 20 to 160-plus pound bluefin tuna turn just fair but there have been good numbers of 5 to 15 pound kelp-paddy yellowtail biting along with some 6 to 10 pound bonito to help pick up the slack. What has also been helping to boost recent catches on some of the offshore tuna trips is that some trips will make a stop at the 60 Mile Bank to do some fishing for rockfish. The rockfish fishing at the 60 Mile Bank has been excellent. Good news about the tuna fishing is that there are still lots of bluefin being found spread over a wide area that could bunch up and once again start biting better at any time.
Best areas for the bluefin have been within 45 miles or so of Point Loma in the regions of the Upper Hidden Bank, 371 Bank, 425 Bank, 230 Spot, 224 Spot, the Corner, the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy, the northern wing tip of the Butterfly Bank and the San Salvador Knoll.
A high percentage of the bluefin are caught from stopping on meter marks found with scanning sonar and this pattern puts a lot of private boats that are trying to locate bluefin with a traditional fathometer at a disadvantage. Bluefin are biting both day and night with the best fishing generally coming from sonar marks found in the dark. Fishing in areas where there are whales has helped in locating bluefin which are also found by locating spots of breezing fish and the occasional trolling strike.
During daylight hours, fly lined sardines, sinker rigged sardines, Colt Sniper style jigs and Salas 6X Jr. blue and chrome color jigs have been effective for bluefin. During the dark, sinker rigged sardines, knife jigs and Flat Fall style jigs have been good ways to go for bluefin. Nomad Madmac jigs have produced an occasional bluefin bite on the troll.
The surface fishing around Los Coronado Islands remains slow but the bottom fishing has been very good for a mix of reds, rockfish, and whitefish. There has also been a chance at a bonus lingcod and a chance of scratching out a yellowtail. The water around Los Coronado Islands has warmed to be in the 60 to 62 degree range but there has been some off color red tide water moving around the area that is suspected to be hindering the emergence of the anticipated springtime surface fishing.
The yellowtail fishing has been slow, but boats with scanning sonar do occasionally locate some yellowtail. Best bet for yellows has been to fish meter marks or sonar marks with dropper loop rig fished sardines and yo-yoed iron. 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.
The yellows tend to be found on the warm side of temperature breaks found off the weather side of North Island. The best areas for the mixed bag bottom fishing have been to the northwest and north of North Island in 30 to 60 fathoms.
There continues to be occasional yellowtail activity found at along the San Diego County coast at La Jolla, but the yellowtail bite remains slow. The yellowtail activity tends to be found in the region ranging from the outskirts of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla on up to the lower edges of the La Jolla Canyon in 18 to 35 fathoms.
Most of the yellowtail are located around schools of bait and the occasional bite tends to be had on surface iron, yo-yo iron or sardines or mackerel that are fished deep on a dropper loop rig.
Most boats fishing San Diego County coastal areas continue to focus on fishing for rockfish. The water along much of the San Diego County Coast has warmed into the 61 to 63-plus degree range but there are still areas of brown color red tide water moving around. The brown water condition is thought to be hindering the development of the spring time surface fishing that one might hope to be seeing at coastal kelp bed areas during this time of year for species such as calico bass, barracuda, yellowtail, bonito, white seabass and halibut.
The fishing for an assortment of rockfish species continues to be very good at various coastal and offshore rockfish areas. Good reports have been coming in from areas such as the hard bottom to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank at Point Loma, the 9 Mile Bank, the 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Box Canyon, the14 Mile Bank, the 60 Mile Bank and San Clemente Island. In the San Diego area, most boats continue to target the middle part and the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank for their rockfish fishing.
There has also been a pretty good mix of sand bass, sculpin and whitefish biting at hard bottom and structure areas along the San Diego County coast. Productive areas for sand bass, sculpin and whitefish as listed from the south to the north include the hard bottom to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp below 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.
There has not been much in the way of halibut biting along the San Diego County coast. The few recent repots of halibut activity have been coming from inside of San Diego Bay and from the area outside of the end of the sunken jetty off Coronado at the entrance to San Diego Bay.
Boats fishing for halibut along the back side of Catalina Island have been catching some quality halibut on live squid while drifting off the V’s and Sliver Canyon. Catalina has also been producing occasional flurries of white seabass and yellowtail action at spots along the back side of the eastern part of the Island ranging from Church Rock to Salta Verde.
More good weather should allow water conditions to continue to warm and hopefully some clean blue water is soon to be coming our way to get rid of the brown color red tide water that has been moving around along the coast and around Los Coronado Islands. The great thing is that while we are waiting for things to get even better we currently do have a lot of prime species to target such as bluefin tuna, yellowtail, halibut, white seabass and rockfish. I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and enjoy some spring time fishing sometime soon. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.