The end of the summer of 2023 will soon be here as summer is getting ready to turn to fall on September 23. Anglers have good reason to be excited about what might be ahead as things appear to be set up nicely for a good end of the summer and fall fishing season with lots of bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, dorado, yellowtail and striped marlin biting on the offshore fishing grounds. The fall fishing season can provide some of the best offshore fishing of the year and with good fishing currently being reported over a vast area ranging from Santa Cruz Island on down to the offshore banks below and outside of Los Coronado Islands, there is reason to be optimistic about this year’s late summer and fall fishing prospects.
Bluefin tuna are continuing to be a main target species on the offshore fishing grounds but a nice development is that yellowfin tuna, dorado and yellowtail are now able to be caught in a lot of the same areas that are producing the big bluefin that range in size to 200-plus pounds. Productive offshore areas are many and include, the back side of San Clemente Island, the West End of San Clemente Island, the Tanner Bank, the Cortes Bank, the 381 Spot, the 157 Spot, the western wing of the Butterfly Bank, the Mushroom Bank, the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy, the 371 Bank, the 224 Spot, the Corner, the 182 Spot, the 9 Mile Bank, the 178 Spot, the La Jolla Canyon, the 312 Spot, the 209 Spot, the 267 Spot outside of Dana Point, the 277 Spot, the Slide, the West End of Catalina and 2 to 12 miles off the stretch of coast between La Jolla and Laguna Beach. There are bluefin, yellowfin, dorado and yellowtail spread out over many miles of ocean.
The 371 Bank is an area that is currently very good for the mixed bag fishing for bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, dorado and yellowtail. Private boater Miguel Martinez of Get Knotty reported about fishing a kelp paddy that he found on top of the outside part of the 371 Bank at 27 miles 207 degrees from Point Loma. It was one of the “one stop shopping” type of kelp paddy bites and Martinez reported catching 3 yellowfin tuna, 1 bluefin tuna, 8 dorado and 10 yellowtail. The day before, another private boater also did well at the 371 Bank and reported finding a kelp paddy that produced 3 yellowfin tuna, 6 dorado that were kept and 6 more dorado that were caught and released.
Kelp paddies, porpoise schools, trolling strikes, spots of breaking fish, spots of breezing fish, meter marks and sonar marks have been leading to the dorado, yellowfin, bluefin and yellowtail. Sardines have been working well for bait along with flying fish (for bluefin), Colt Snipers, knife jigs, poppers and surface iron. Trolling strikes are also being reported on bluefin, yellowfin and dorado with strikes being reported on cedar plugs, feathers, Halco plugs, Nomad Madmac jigs, Rapalas, daisy chain rigs and spreader bar rigs.
Striped marlin have been hard to locate in the Catalina and San Diego region with the past weekend finding a bit of marlin activity off Palos Verdes, at the area between the 14 Mile Bank and the Oil Rigs and off the West End of Catalina. The area that proved to be excellent for marlin over the past weekend was the 50 to 100 fathom curve off back side of Santa Cruz Island with lots of strikes coming between the area above the Footprint MLPA closure zone and the area below the Gull Island MLPA closure zone.
Boats fishing in the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament did very well at Santa Cruz Island and I am estimating that there were 30 marlin that were caught and released during the 2 day tournament. At Santa Cruz Island there have been feeders and tailers showing with a good percentage of the hookups coming on fish that were raised up behind the boat on the troll that either bit a trolling jig or a dropback mackerel.
The surface fishing at Los Coronado Islands has not received much attention lately due to the good offshore fishing going on in nearby offshore waters but there was a recent report provided by private boater Doug Rubin of Sueno. Rubin reported finding water temperatures ranging from 66 to 68 degrees and said the water was off color compared to the water color he had found at Los Coronado Islands on his last visit 2 weeks before. He first tried fishing at Pukey Point at North Island which he found to be slow and then moved to the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island where he metered some yellowtail that did not want to bite. Rubin’s next move was to the Middle Grounds where he found excellent fishing for big calico bass that went to 8-plus pounds. He said they released all the big calicos and that they were still able to take home their limits of medium sized legal size fish.
The bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been very good for a mix of reds, rockfish and whitefish along with a chance at a bonus lingcod. The best areas for the mixed bag bottom fishing have been to the northwest, north and northeast of North Island in 25 to 60 fathoms.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, reds, sculpin, whitefish, sheephead and an assortment of rockfish species and there has also been a chance at catching a bonus yellowtail, halibut or white seabass.
A recent half day trip aboard New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing sparked a lot of excitement when they had 45 anglers on a morning half-day trip catch 20 yellowtail, 1 calico bass, 1 rockfish, 1 sand bass and 1 sheephead. Anglers were hoping this catch of yellowtail would mark was the start of a late season run of yellowtail at La Jolla but so far not much has happened with the yellowtail at La Jolla during the 3 days following the catch of 20 yellowtail aboard New Seaforth.
Calico bass have been providing most of the surface fishing along the San Diego County coast with productive areas being the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northeast of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Lab, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, the Barn and San Onofre.
Captain Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reports improved water conditions that have been in step with the improvement they have been finding in the calico bass fishing at kelp bed and hard bottom areas off South Carlsbad, Leucadia and Solana Beach. On a recent trip Cacciola had 11 anglers catch 15 calico bass, 118 calico bass that were released, 5 sheephead, 4 rockfish, 2 sand bass, 2 whitefish, 2 sand bass that were released, 6 sheephead that were released and 2 sculpin that were released.
The fishing for an assortment of rockfish species continues to be very good at various coastal and offshore rockfish spots. Good reports have been coming in from areas such as the hard bottom to the southeast and to the northwest of the Whistler Buoy 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, the 14 Mile Bank and the 60 Mile Bank..
Halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been producing an occasional legal sized halibut. A couple of the better areas for halibut have been fishing off Imperial Beach and at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL tower or the structure of the Yukon shipwreck off Mission Beach. A good depth range off Imperial Beach has been in 37 to 50 feet and 50 feet has been a good depth off Mission Beach. Other productive halibut areas have been San Diego Bay, at the end of the sunken jetty off Coronado at the entrance to San Diego Bay, off Black’s Beach, off South Ponto Beach, at the Buccaneer Pipeline, at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and off of San Onofre.
The 2023 summer fishing season will soon be coming to a close but things appear to be setting up nicely for a very good fall of offshore fishing fun. I hope you are able to get out fishing as much as possible so you can enjoy the remainder of the 2023 fishing season. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.