SAN DIEGO⸺ Spring is less than a week away and Southern California anglers are already getting a taste of what likely lies ahead once the calendar turns the page and we formally enter the new season. The past week has seen warming air temperatures and some boats out on exploratory trips fishing offshore waters looking for tuna were reporting finding unseasonably warm water that was as warm as 61.9 degrees. What was most important though was they were able to locate an area holding good numbers of yellowtail around some of the kelp paddies, which also produced a 100-pound bluefin tuna.
The 100-pound bluefin was reported to have been hooked on a sinker rig fished sardine and there was another lost bluefin hookup reported on a flylined sardine. Most of the bluefin activity originated from deep meter marks found around kelp paddies and via scanning sonar and spotting breaking fish. The area holding the bluefin and yellowtail was within a one-day range of Point Loma. This offshore activity was found by boats fishing the 1000 fathom trench between the 213 Bank and the 60 Mile Bank which has you down around 55 miles 208 degrees from Point Loma.
Old Glory out of H&M Landing was one of the boats out on a recent exploratory offshore trip and they posted a fish count of 23 anglers on a 1.5-day trip catching their limits of 115 yellowtail and a 100-pound bluefin tuna. Tribute out of Seaforth Sportfishing also out on a recent 1.5-day exploratory offshore trip reported 32 anglers with 19 yellowtail.
The recent days of nice weather have also seen some sportboats and private boats out looking for yellowtail around Los Coronado Islands. No yellowtail have been caught that I know, most boats returned with good numbers of bottom fish which have been made up of a mix of reds, salmon grouper, whitefish, rockfish, and a few lingcod.
There was recent yellowtail activity reported at North Island when a private boater reported having a two-minute showing of yellowtail that were up chasing bait on the surface. This showing of yellowtail was found while fishing the Keyhole off the south tip of North Island but unfortunately, those yellows did not want to bite.
The most recent sportboat counts from Los Coronado Islands start with San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing out on a full-day trip had 21 anglers catch 74 rockfish, 42 reds, 1 sheephead and 47 whitefish. Liberty out of Fisherman’s Landing also out on a full-day trip and had 31 anglers catch 4 lingcod, 1 sculpin, 140 rockfish and 90 reds.
One of the best areas for bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been at hard bottom spots to the north and the northwest of North Island in 30 to 50 fathoms. Another highlight zone from recent days has been fishing hard bottom areas around the Rockpile in the 20 to 45 fathom depths.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mixed bag of reds, rockfish, whitefish, sculpin, sand bass, and calico bass. The coastal fishing has also provided a chance at catching a bonus yellowtail, halibut, or lingcod.
The best areas for the rockfish fishing as listed from the south to the north have been 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 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, and Box Canyon.
The best areas for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, and sculpin has come from various hard bottom and structure spots. For the bass and sculpin, the best areas have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Lighthouse Ridge off 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.
The zone providing a chance at a yellowtail has been outside of the stretch of coast between Pacific Beach and Torrey Pines. A good depth range has been in 18 to 30 fathoms and the yellows tend to show in fishy looking areas where skippers are seeing birds, bait, and porpoise. There was also a recent report about yellowtail showing during the evening hours along the kelp line at the upper end of La Jolla. Look for meter marks, sonar marks and spots of breaking fish to locate yellowtail.
Iron has been working best once yellowtail are located with surface iron or yo-yo iron both are effective. There was also a recent report about a couple of lost hookups on slow trolled sardines and slow trolled mackerel while trolling along the kelp line at the upper end of La Jolla. Good choices for yo-yo iron have been Salas 6X Jr. and Salas 6X jigs in the blue and white color combination. Good choices for surface iron have been Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in sardine colors and in blue and white.
There continues to be an occasional halibut biting at spots up and down the San Diego County coast. Places where occasional halibut have been caught include the sandy bottom around the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the area outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, 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.
Out at San Clemente Island there have been a few yellowtail biting outside of Pyramid Cove during the early morning gray-light hours. Live squid has been working best for a chance at a yellowtail. It is best to try and import squid to San Clemente Island from a bait receiver on the mainland or from a squid boat at Catalina but there was also a recent report about there being a bit of squid caught for bait at night at Pyramid Cove. The fishing for an assortment of rockfish, reds, salmon grouper, and whitefish at San Clemente Island has been good.
The official start of the spring surface fishing season is less than a week away but the good news is that we are already seeing signs of spring developing out on the fishing grounds. I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and enjoy the improving weather and improving 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 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.