The 2023 fishing season is upon us but those that wanted to get out on the water and do some fishing on New Year’s Day had to put those plans on hold as there was a storm passing through Southern California that brought Gale Warnings and a combination of strong winds, high seas and rain. The New Year’s Day storm and its Gale Warnings have now passed but the weather is still unsettled with the 10 day forecast calling for several more days of unsettled weather. Anglers and Skippers should keep a close eye on the marine weather forecast so they can plan their days of fishing for days of good weather.
Prior to the New Year’s Day storm there were still bluefin tuna biting out at the Tanner Bank. The bluefin bite was not at the near limit to limit levels of the prior week but there were still some pretty good numbers of bluefin biting to go with good number of assorted bottom fish species. Two recent sportboat trips that found biting start with Tribute out of Seaforth Sportfishing that had a 1.5 day trip with 29 anglers catch 10 bluefin tuna, 115 rockfish, 50 whitefish, 13 sheephead and 4 lingcod. The other trip was out of 22nd Street Landing that had Amigo fishing an overnight trip with 15 anglers catch 14 bluefin tuna, 142 whitefish and 136 rockfish.
Most of the bluefin around the Tanner Bank have been in the 18 to 40 pound range with some bigger fish to 65 pounds also in the mix. The best bluefin fishing has been in the dark and during the early morning hours and lot of the bluefin fishing is being done while anchored. A good bluefin zone has been anchored to the north and the northeast of the Tanner Bank high spot. Best baits and jigs for the bluefin have been live squid, sardines, knife jigs and Flat Fall jigs. Squid has been able to be jigged for bait at night at the Tanner Bank but it is usually a good idea to get squid for your bait tank wherever you might find it be it from a mainland bait receiver of from a squid boat at Catalina or elsewhere. It will be interesting to see what will happen with the Tanner Bank bluefin fishing after the passing of the New Year’s Day storm and its gale force winds.
There has not been much to report in the way of bluefin activity from other local offshore areas with recent weeks seeing occasional bluefin activity found in the region of the 178 Spot, 9 Mile Bank, Kidney Bank and at some of the offshore banks outside of Ensenada. Not much if anything has been caught from these areas in some time. There are reports of some larger bluefin to 240-plus pounds being caught further down the Mexican coast in an area that I understand to be between 150 and 180 miles from Point Loma.
The other offshore fishing that had been producing occasional action before the recent bad weather was deep drop fishing for swordfish. The swordfish bite has been slowing overall but there have still been a few people giving it a try that were seeing some good signs on the fathometer and getting a very occasional bite. It has been over 2 weeks since I have heard news of a hookup but I am thinking that some people will want to go out and try to catch the first swordfish of 2023 once the weather calms down. The areas that have been showing signs of possibly holding swordfish have been the 9 Mile Bank, the 178 Spot, the Radar Dome at San Clemente Island, the 152 Spot off the East End of Catalina, the Avalon Bank and the area 3.5 to 8 miles off Newport Beach.
The fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been slow for surface fishing species with 58 to 60 degree water being reported before the recent storm. What has been good around the Los Coronado Islands is the bottom fishing for a variety of species that include reds, salmon grouper, an assortment of rockfish species, sculpin, whitefish, sheephead and a few lingcod.
The best area for reds, salmon grouper and rockfish has been at the hard bottom to the northwest and north of North Island in 25 to 50 fathoms. Also productive has been the hard bottom at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in similar depths. One of the best zones for lingcod where there have also been some sculpin, whitefish and sheephead biting has been at the Rockpile in 18 to 23 fathoms.
With regard to the fishing along the San Diego County coast, anglers fishing above the Mexico border need to keep in mind that the annual seasonal rockfish/groundfish closure went into effect on the United States side of the Mexico border on January 1, 2023. This year’s closure period is a month longer than in recent years 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 upcoming changes that is entitled “New Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations Coming In The New Year.”
There has been some surface fishing to be found along the San Diego County coast with occasional yellowtail activity being found in the La Jolla region. The showings of yellowtail have been hit or miss and inconsistent but if you are at the right spot at the right time on the right day you have a chance at catching a nice sized yellowtail with most being up in the 20 to 30 pound class. Yellows have been found in an area ranging from Mission Beach on up to Del Mar with the best zone usually being in the area ranging from the outskirts of the upper part of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla on up to Northwest at the upper end of La Jolla. A good depth range has been in 18 to 31 fathoms.
Yellows have been located by finding meter marks, sonar marks and spots of breezing fish and the yellows are often found in areas where skippers are seeing or metering a lot of bait. Once yellowtail are located, anglers have been getting bites on surface iron, yo-yo iron and sardines or mackerel that are fished on a dropper loop rig.
Good choices for surface iron are Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in blue and white or sardine colors. Good choices for yo-yo iron have been jigs with chrome in them. On a day when the yellows were biting pretty well a good yo-yo jig was a 100 gram size jig called a Zakana. The morning hours have been best for a chance at a coastal yellowtail.
With the seasonal rockfish/groundfish closure now in effect through the end of March anglers fishing along the San Diego County coast are turning their attention to species that remain open to fishing such as sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, whitefish, bonito, barracuda, halibut, white seabass and yellowtail.
Productive hard bottom and structure areas along the San Diego County coast for sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and whitefish listed from the south to the north include the Imperial Beach Pipeline, 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. Those might also be areas where there might a showing of bonito or barracuda in upcoming weeks.
Halibut fishing remains slow but if you want to give it a try, 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, 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.
White seabass fishing along the San Diego County coast has been slow but we are in a time of year where things could pick up with the arrival of lots of squid. Likely areas to produce a white seabass listed from south to north would be the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, the area below and outside of the Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, View Point, the Border Check Station and San Onofre.
The 2023 Southern California offshore fishing season is upon us and we need some good weather to allow anglers to get back out on the water to see what might be around and biting after a recent storm that brought gale force winds that might have hurt the water temperature and color conditions. Let’s hope 2023 will bring lots of good weather and fun fishing our way. I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and start your 2023 fishing season 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.