Wise Anglers Monitor the Weather to Pick Good Weather Days for Fishing
With regard to Southern California saltwater fishing, the first 6 weeks of 2023 have produced a lot of days of poor weather which have brought much needed rain but have also brought a lot of days of high seas and strong winds. Another effect of the unsettled weather conditions is that the water temperatures off the Southern California and Northern Baja coast have dipped down into the 57.5 to 60 degree range. The good news is that there have been some days of good weather between the weather systems when boats have been able to get out on the water and enjoy some fun February fishing.
I do not know of anyone out looking for bluefin tuna lately. With the offshore water temperatures down in the 57.5 to 60 degree and no one has done any looking around. I would look for some Skippers to get interested in prospecting for bluefin once the water warms up to around 62 degrees. I do not have a crystal ball, but am thinking this might happen sometime in the late part of March or sometime in April.
When the weather allows, sportboats out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been running 1.5-day trips down the Mexican coast to fish the Punta Colnett and Punta Camalu areas. The 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 most recent trips had very good fishing for the bottom fish species and found a few bass and barracuda biting but the yellowtail fishing was slow. If you do locate some Punta Colnett area yellowtail, best bets have been to try yo-yo iron or dropper loop fished sardines.
The most recent fish counts start with Relentless out of H&M Landing that had 18 anglers out on a 1.5-day trip who caught 80 reds, 54 rockfish, 25 whitefish, 2 sheephead and 19 lingcod. Seaforth Sportfishing had Pacifica out on a 1.5 day trip with 14 anglers who caught 65 reds, 33 rockfish, 2 sheephead, 2 barracuda, 3 calico bass, 20 whitefish and 15 lingcod. Seaforth Sportfishing also had Tribute fishing a 1.5 day trip with 35 anglers who caught 105 rockfish, 60 reds, 64 whitefish, 18 lingcod, 3 calico bass, 7 barracuda and 8 sheephead.
Very few boats have been fishing at Los Coronado Islands lately but reports are that the surface fishing remains slow in the 57.5 to 59 degree water being found around the Islands. The cold water temperature has not hindered the bottom fishing though and it has been very good for a mix of reds, assorted rockfish, sculpin and a few lingcod. The best areas for the bottom fishing have been northwest and north of North Island in 30 to 60 fathoms and at the hard bottom at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in 25 to 50 fathoms. One of the best areas for lingcod where there have also been some sculpin, whitefish and sheephead biting has been at the Rockpile in 18 to 23 fathoms.
Some of the sportboats out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been running half day trips to Mexican waters to fish for rockfish. Some recent fish counts are New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing that had 20 anglers catch 200 rockfish. The Premier out of H&M Landing also fished Mexican waters for rockfish on a recent half day trip and had 21 anglers catch 209 rockfish and 1 lingcod.
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 closure went into effect on the United States side of the 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.”
With the rockfish/groundfish closure now 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 area off Northwest at the upper end of La Jolla. Also worth a look has been the area above La Jolla along the lower edges of the La Jolla Canyon.
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 31 fathoms. Once yellowtail are found, anglers have been reporting getting an occasional bite on surface iron, yo-yo iron and on 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 fishing for sand bass and sculpin at the Imperial Beach Pipeline. Up and down the San Diego County coast, productive hard bottom and structure areas 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 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 was a recent report of a 15-pound halibut being caught around some bait that was being metered near the bottom along the outskirts of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla. Other 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.
Nothing to report in the way of recent white seabass activity along the San Diego County coast but we are in a time of year where things could pick up with the arrival of some 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.
One would expect that we will be getting more nice weather days as we head toward spring. I hope you can get out fishing on one of the good weather days to enjoy some of the fun winter time salt water fishing that Southern California has 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.