We are in the middle of a mild winter and Southern California anglers continue to be presented with the option of targeting bluefin tuna and yellowtail in addition to fishing the normal wintertime staples such as sand bass, calico bass, and sculpin.
Mexican waters also offer anglers a chance at lingcod, reds, and a variety of assorted bottom fish species during the two-month rockfish and groundfish closure in U.S. waters that are in effect during the months of January and February.
The past weekend saw three bluefin tuna caught aboard a 1.5-day trip to fish the waters down the Mexican Coast outside of Punta Colnett. The fish were caught aboard Tribute out of Seaforth Sportfishing that ended up with a fish count of 33 anglers catching the three bluefin tuna, two sheephead, 53 lingcod, 60 rockfish, 76 whitefish, and 130 reds. Seaforth Sportfishing reports the bluefin tuna caught aboard the Tribute were in the 30 to 40-pound range.
The Punta Colnett area near shore fishing continues to be very good for an assortment of reds, salmon grouper, lingcod, whitefish, sheephead, rockfish, and a chance at yellowtail. Relentless out of H&M Landing also fished the Punta Colnett region this past weekend and they found biting yellowtail, bonito, lingcod, and rockfish with a fish count of 20 anglers on a 1.5-day trip catching 150 rockfish, 11 lingcod, 3 bonito, and 6 yellowtail.
The Punta Colnett area yellowtail have been running about 10 to 20 pounds and the yellowtail bites in the area tend to come from locating meter marks or sonar marks and then fishing with yo-yo iron or with live baits that are dropped down to the meter marks using a dropper loop rig. Salas 6X Jr. and Salas 6X jigs in the blue and white color combination have been good choices for yo-yo iron.
Private boater Tom Parnakian of Ambush was fishing aboard Relentless out of H&M Landing on the trip mentioned above and he reported very good fishing.
Parnakian personally caught 18-pound yellowtail and his limits of rockfish including an assortment of reds, salmon grouper, and Johnny bass. Parnakian said the six yellowtail they caught on the trip ran from 18 to 20 pounds and that he caught his 18-pound yellowtail on a blue and white Salas 6X Jr. yo-yo jig. He reported most if not all of the lingcod on the trip were caught on jigs dropped all the way to the bottom in the same area where they were catching their yellowtail. He noted that one angler caught two nice-sized lingcod while using a “reddish-brown” color yo-yo jig.
Closer to San Diego, boats fishing in Mexican waters around Los Coronado Islands have been finding good fishing for rockfish, reds, salmon grouper, whitefish, and an occasional lingcod. The fishing for yellowtail and other surface fishing species around Los Coronado Islands has been slow with occasional yellowtail activity being found around North Island.
New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been running extended half-day trips into Mexican waters to fish for rockfish species. On their most recent trip, New Seaforth found limit fishing and had 14 anglers catch 140 assorted rockfish.
Malihini out of H&M Landing has also started fishing for rockfish around Los Coronado Islands and on their most recent trip, they had 16 anglers on a three-quarter day trip catch 29 reds, 11 salmon grouper, two sculpin, 15 whitefish, and 55 rockfish.
A productive zone for the rockfish fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been the hard bottom to the north and northwest of North Island. Within this zone, Skippers have been reporting that their best fishing has been coming from the area between North Island and the lower edges of the Coronado Canyon. A good depth range has been in 30 to 50 fathoms and there has also been good bottom fishing in deeper water. In recent weeks, Seaforth Sportfishing has been suggesting being prepared to fish depths down to 800 feet (133 fathoms) by bringing tackle that includes some 16 to 20-ounce sinkers and includes an outfit capable of fishing the 800-foot depths with the 16 to 20-ounce sinkers.
Recent weeks have seen occasional yellowtail activity found along the San Diego County coast. The showings of yellowtail have been erratic and unpredictable from day to day but the good news is that the most recent yellowtail activity off La Jolla and Pacific Beach has been on the upswing and has been increasing the past couple of days.
As I was preparing this report this morning there were reports of a good showing of yellowtail during the mid-morning hours. There were several boats that got on some spots of breaking yellowtail and several yellowtail were caught with one boat catching two. The best yellowtail showings have been off Pacific Beach in the area below the MLPA closure zone that is at the lower end of La Jolla. A good depth has been in 18 to 32 fathoms and locating spots of bait, working birds, and meter marks has been a good way to get situated in an area where some yellowtail might show.
Yellowtail have been biting best on iron with surface iron and yo-yo iron both being productive. This morning the yellows were reported to be biting best on surface iron and yesterday, they were reported to be mostly ignoring the surface iron and biting better on yo-yo iron. 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 the blue and white color combination and in sardine colors.
Much of the fishing along the San Diego County coast during the cold water months of the annual 2-month rockfish/groundfish closure is focused on targeting calico bass, sand bass, and sculpin by fishing hard bottom and structure spots. The Imperial Beach Pipeline has been one of the better areas since the 2 month closure period began and it continues to produce good mixed bag fishing for sand bass, calico bass, and sculpin.
Other productive hard bottom and structure spots that have been producing a mixed bag of calico bass, sand bass, and sculpin are the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Lighthouse Ridge off the Point Loma Lighthouse, the Jetty Kelp hard bottom outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp hard bottom off Pacific Beach, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and Box Canyon.
The halibut fishing has been scratchy with just a very occasional halibut being reported. Areas, where there has been occasional halibut activity that would spot you might want to try to scratch out a halibut, are Imperial Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, the structure of 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.
An ongoing reminder is that anglers need to keep in mind that the annual 2-month rockfish/groundfish closure went into effect in U.S. waters on January 1, 2022. The closure will run through Feb. 28, 2022, and during the 2 month closure period anglers will need to travel into Mexican waters to fish for the various rockfish/groundfish species that are covered by the closure. During the closure period, Skippers fishing in U.S. waters have been and will be focusing on species that are not covered by the closure such as calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, halibut, yellowtail, and white seabass.
The month of January provided a good start to the 2022 fishing season and if the good weather holds my guess is that the month of February is ready to produce more of the same. It is wise to watch the marine weather forecast closely and pick the good weather days to go out on the water and do your 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.