SAN DIEGO— The summer fishing season continues to improve with lots of fun fishing found in offshore waters, along the coast, and around local islands. The offshore fishing continues to lead the way with a 200-mile stretch of ocean providing places between Santa Barbara Island and the offshore waters below and outside of Ensenada where one can target bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, dorado, yellowtail, and striped marlin.
Bluefin tuna continue to provide major highlights with the best bluefin fishing found in the waters off the back side of Catalina on up to the southeast of the Osborn Bank and to the southeast of Santa Barbara Island. This zone is providing good numbers of bluefin tuna ranging in size from 40 to 200-plus pounds. Most of the bluefin are found by locating spots of breaking or breezing fish with Nomad Madmac trolling jigs, spreader bar rigs, sardines, flying fish, stick baits, poppers, Colt Snipers and knife jigs producing bluefin. Of all those choices, most private boaters report doing best on the Nomad Madmac trolling jigs while being trolled at 11 to 14 knots.
Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported about fishing a recent trip for the bluefin by the 711 Spot and the Osborn Bank. Golding reported very good fishing for quality-sized bluefin and said that they caught three bluefin including a 57-pound fish and two fish over 100 pounds. The 57-pound bluefin bit on a flylined sardine fished on a 40-pound test line and the two 100-plus pound fish bit on a 200-gram Nomad Madmac trolling jig in the sardine color.
Golding said their fish were hooked between 1:30- 7 p.m. in areas where the water temperature ranged from 67.64-68.64 degrees. The hookups were had to the northeast of the 711 Spot, to the southeast of the Osborn Bank and to the northeast of the Osborn Bank. These areas had you fishing from 93 to 97 miles 278 to 287 degrees from Point Loma.
As you go down the coast, the region ranging from the 14 Mile Bank in the Catalina Channel on down to Encinitas has provided an opportunity at dorado along with a few yellowtail for boats working kelp paddies and spots of breezing fish. The best catch from this zone that I know of was aboard Pronto out of the Oceanside Sea Center. The center posted about a three-quarter day trip with 12 anglers catching 47 dorado. Captain Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reported that Oceanside Sea Center boats have been catching dorado around kelp paddies found between Camp Pendleton and Encinitas. Working the area 4 to 6 miles off the coast tends to be productive within this zone.
As you continue south there has been good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, dorado, bluefin tuna, and yellowfin tuna that have been biting for boats fishing offshore waters between La Jolla and the 371 Bank located below and outside of Los Coronado Islands. As you go further down toward Ensenada and go below Ensenada the fishing changes and anglers have been finding very good fishing for yellowtail and dorado and have also had a chance at adding a few yellowfin or bluefin to their catch. Boats fishing this lower sector down towards Ensenada have been doing well working the area beginning in the region of the Upper Hidden Bank, 390 Bank and 475 Knuckle and then working on down from those areas to the offshore banks below and outside of Ensenada to where they are fishing around and below the 238 Spot, the 1010 Trench and the 483/500 Bank.
In addition to the good bluefin fishing up by Catalina, the Osborn Bank and Santa Barbara Island, the bluefin fishing off San Diego has also been very good at times and has also been producing larger-sized fish that go from 40 to 200-plus pounds. Best areas to try and focus on bluefin in the San Diego region have been the 9 Mile Bank, the 178 Spot, the end of the Ridge below the 182 Spot, the 224 Spot, the Coronado Canyon, the area 4 to 7 miles west to southwest of North Island, the 302 Spot, the 230 Spot and the 425 Bank.
Private boater Ken Morris of Ken Dandy reported about fishing the offshore banks below and outside of the Coronado Islands. Morris was fishing with his friend Mark Backes aboard Mark’s boat December Girl. Morris said they had great weather and great fishing and that they limited out catching 1 yellowfin tuna, 4 dorado and 9 yellowtail. Their yellowtail and dorado were nice-sized fish with their dorado going up to 15 pounds and their yellowtail going up to 18 pounds.
Morris said they caught most of their yellowtail and dorado at a kelp paddy found to the southeast of the 425 Bank at 29 miles 173 degrees from Point Loma. Their yellowfin tuna was caught on a trolled Mexican Flag color feather while trolling to the southwest of the 425 Bank at 29 miles 190 degrees from Point Loma.
Marlin fishing has perked up with the ridge above the West End of Catalina and the 286 Spot located inside of the West End of Catalina being the best spots over the July 29 weekend. The 286 Spot was the best area over the last weekend in July with what I estimate to be four marlin caught and released on July 30. The last weekend of the month also saw a marlin caught and released above the West End of Catalina in the area between the 125 Spot and the 172 Spot. There were some tailers and feeders reported seen in these areas with most of the hookups coming from blind trolling strikes.
Recent days have also seen marlin activity found in other areas with a tailer seen by a boat fishing about 6 miles off Point San Mateo and with a lost marlin hookup reported on a sardine that was intended for dorado while fishing at a kelp paddy located 6 miles off Leucadia.
Close to San Diego, there was a marlin caught at the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank / Coronado Canyon area aboard Snooper with Chris Lapham at the helm. The angler that made the catch was David Verdugo who reported that it was a jig fish that bit on a dorado color jig. Verdugo reported that the fish put on a show in doing a lot of jumping and that it took 25 minutes to bring the marlin to the boat.
The fishing at Los Coronado Islands continues to be very good for a mix of yellowtail, barracuda, calico bass and an assortment of bottom fish species that have included reds, whitefish, salmon grouper, and an occasional lingcod.
The best of the yellowtail fishing has been reported by boats fishing along the weather side of North Island and at the Middle Grounds with the weather side of South Island and the South Kelp below South Island also producing occasional yellowtail. Private boaters have been doing well on yellowtail while slow trolling or drifting with sardines.
The best spots for calico bass and barracuda have been at kelp bed areas at South Island and the Middle Grounds with the hard bottom at the north end of South Island also producing calico bass and barracuda. Sardines and surface iron have been good for the calico bass and barracuda. Good choices for surface iron for calico bass, barracuda and yellowtail include Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in the blue and white color combination, mint and sardine colors.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, reds, rockfish, sculpin, and whitefish along with a chance at catching a bonus yellowtail, lingcod, halibut, or white seabass. Good news is that the water conditions have improved in many areas to where there is now 73-degree clean green water reported at most kelp bed areas up and down the San Diego County coast.
Captain Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reports 72-73.5-degree water with improved calico bass fishing at kelp bed and hard bottom areas below Oceanside Harbor. He also said that the Chubasco II out of the Oceanside Sea Center recently caught a 45-pound white seabass incidental to fishing for calico bass while fishing a kelp bed area below Oceanside.
Cacciola says that they have had 5.5 to 7-inch sardines in their recent bait supply and that they have been chunking with sardines to help chum up a calico bass bite at various hard bottom and kelp bed spots. Cacciola says that the smaller sized sardines work well for bait for the calicos but says that they will often find their best calico bass fishing when baiting the hook with a sardine chunk. Cacciola mentioned a recent trip where they had 9 people aboard with just 4 people fishing and said those 4 anglers made a catch that included over 10 keeper sized calico bass.
Productive areas for calico bass include the Point Loma Kelp Beds, the La Jolla Kelp Beds, Del Mar, Leucadia, Carlsbad and the Barn. What has been a key to finding a good calico bass bite is to find a kelp bed area where you find your warmest and cleanest water with a moderate downhill current flow.
The upper end of La Jolla has been the best zone to try for a yellowtail along the San Diego County coast and yellows have been located anywhere from the kelp line on out to 25 fathoms. The yellowtail biting at La Jolla have been good-sized fish with a good percentage being up in the 15 to 20-pound range and with some bigger fish up to 40-plus pounds also a possibility.
Sardines, mackerel and surface iron have been good choices for yellowtail. Private boaters have also had success when slow trolling mackerel or sardines. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in blue & white, sardine and mint colors.
The halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been fair. Areas along the San Diego County coast that have been providing a chance at a halibut have been 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.
The summer fishing season is roaring and is providing anglers with a lot of good choices in what to target during a day of fishing. I hope you can get out on the water, enjoy some fun fishing and savor the summer season while it is here. 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.