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Bluefin, Yellowfin, Yellowtail, Dorado and Striped Marlin Still Biting Offshore!

The recent offshore fishing has seen some ups and downs but the fact remains that one can still go out to the offshore fishing grounds and have a chance at catching jumbo sized bluefin tuna, 18 to 40-pound yellowfin tuna, 6 to 15-pound dorado, 6 to 20-pound yellowtail and 100 to 200-pound striped marlin.

The highlight fishing has been for bluefin tuna which have been biting well for boats fishing around the Tanner Bank and in the area 10 to 18 miles off the backside of San Clemente Island.  The bluefin has been in the 25 to the 395.4-pound range with a lot of bluefin being caught that are in the 150 to 250-pound range.

Private boater Floyd Sparks of Tuna Kahuna was a recent guest of private boater Rob Thompson aboard Thompson’s boat Latitude 22 and reported about a day of fishing out by the Tanner Bank.  Cole Peters was aboard the trip as well.  Sparks reported a tremendous day of fishing on the larger-sized bluefin and that they caught bluefin weighing 160 pounds, 240 pounds, and 395.4 pounds.  The 395.4-pound fish was weighed on a certified scale at The Marlin Club in San Diego and has been submitted for a State of California record catch. The existing State of California record bluefin is a 384-pound fish that was caught in October of 2020 while fishing around San Clemente Island.

Sparks said that they caught the 240-pound bluefin on the troll while using a spreader bar and that they caught the 160-pound bluefin and the 395.4-pound bluefin on defrosted flying fish that were fished from a helium balloon and fished from a kite. The 395.4-pound bluefin was a true beast that took 50 minutes to land on a 130-pound test line.

The best of the bluefin fishing out by the Tanner Bank has been coming from fishing the 50 to 250-fathom depths to the east and the northeast of the Tanner Bank high spot. There has also been an additional area of good fishing between San Clemente Island and the Tanner Bank while fishing 11 to 18 miles off Seal Cove off the backside of San Clemente Island.

Most of the bluefin have been biting from stopping on meter marks, sonar marks, and the occasional spot of breaking or breezing fish. Bluefin have been biting both day and night with the nighttime hours seeing bluefin biting best for those using Flat Fall jigs. Daylight hours have seen bluefin biting well on a kite or balloon-fished frozen flying fish, Flat Fall jigs and flylined or sinker rigged sardines.

Private boater Ray Millman of Go the Distance reported about going out on a recent 1.5-day trip aboard Tomahawk out of Fisherman’s Landing. Millman said they had an excellent trip and returned with a fish count of 30 anglers catching their limits of 60 bluefin tuna. Millman said that the bluefin caught on the trip ranged in size from 25 to 265 pounds and that he personally caught a 220-pound bluefin. The report was that the catch of 60 bluefin aboard Tomahawk included seven “cow” sized fish that were up over 200 pounds. Millman’s report was that most of their hookups originated from stopping on meter marks found with side-scanning sonar and he said that all their 200-plus pound-sized bluefin were caught on defrosted flying fish that were being fished from either a kite or a helium-filled balloon.

The offshore fishing that has been mostly scratchy and hit or miss in recent days has been the fishing for yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, dorado, and kelp-paddy yellowtail at areas other than where the bluefin have been biting around the Tanner Bank and 11 to 18 miles off the backside of San Clemente Island. Boats fishing other areas that have been targeting kelp-paddy dorado, kelp-paddy yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, and bluefin tuna have seen the recent fishing slow to the point where some boats have been finding it difficult to catch a tuna, yellowtail, or dorado and have been coming back empty. Offshore areas where there has been hit or miss catches of yellowfin tuna, dorado, kelp-paddy yellowtail, and an occasional bluefin tuna are the Butterfly Bank, the 425 Bank, the 371 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank, the Upper 500 Bank, the 385 Spot, the 400 Spot, and the 295 Bank.

Captain Tony Souza of the private boat Green Bee reported about fishing a recent trip with a friend aboard his friend’s private boat. Souza said they fished below and outside Los Coronado Islands in the region of the 425 Bank and the 371 Bank and started off the day by catching a 30-pound yellowfin tuna. The yellowfin bit a flylined sardine that was being drifted around a meter mark found in the region of one of the tuna pens located below the 425 Bank. Souza said they also hooked and lost a second yellowfin in that same area that bit on a slow trolled sardine. After the fishing in the region of the tuna pens slowed down, they went out looking away from the tuna pens and found a kelp paddy that had 3 dorado swimming around it which would not bite. In the afternoon they came back to the tuna pen region and gave it another try and that proved to be a good move that resulted in catching a 40-pound bluefin tuna that bit on a flylined sardine.

A reminder to anglers is that Mexican Law requires that we stay at least 250 meters (820 feet) away from commercial fishing vessels and fixed or floating fishing tackle while in Mexico. The law specifically includes keeping 250 meters away from tuna pens.

Striped marlin fishing picked up in time for the Balboa Angling Club’s Master Angler Billfish Tournament which was held on September 10 and September 11. The tournament saw good marlin fishing found in the area of the Osborn Bank and there was also some marlin biting in the region of the 14 Mile Bank, the Slide at Catalina, off the backside of Catalina, in the region of the 181 Spot and within a grid that contains the 302 Spot and the area to the west of North Coronado Island. The two-day event saw 29 boats and 107 anglers participating and my unofficial tally was that there was 13 striped marlin caught and released and that three additional striped marlin caught and released that were for one reason or another disqualified for tournament purposes. There was a lot of excitement during the two-day event with what I estimate to be 20 lost hookups during Saturday’s fishing.

A Master Angler Billfish Tournament story for the ages came from the first day of fishing when Shane Hurt hooked a marlin at 6:41 a.m. while fishing aboard Joint Venture. I believe it was hooked on a 12-pound test and Hurt did battle with the fish for 10 hours and 45 minutes before the fish gained its’ freedom at around 5:26 p.m. What a heartbreak to lose a magnificent fish after such a long hookup but at the same time, it was an epic and great battle!

Since the Master Angler Billfish Tournament ended there has been continued good marlin fishing at the Osborn Bank and also a bit of marlin activity reported off the Slide at Catalina and outside of Mission Bay and La Jolla. Marlin have been biting on mackerel and on jigs with a good number of hookups coming on dropback mackerel that are dropped into the wake during a trolling strike.

The surface fishing at Los Coronado Islands has been hit or miss and generally on the scratchy side of things with a few yellowtail, calico bass, bonito, and barracuda biting. The fishing for reds and rockfish has been good when the surface fishing species are not cooperating.

Looking for areas where you find your warmest water is a key to getting a bite going on surface fishing species. The weather side of North Island has been where some of the warmest water has been found and looking for meter marks or sonar marks to stop on has been the best bet for finding some yellowtail. In this type of yellowtail bite, sportboats and private boats that are equipped with scanning sonar have a big advantage in locating yellowtail when compared to a boat without scanning sonar.

Slow trolled sardines have been one of the best ways for private boaters to try and locate biting yellowtail, bonito, barracuda, and calico bass. Once located, the slow trolled sardines also work well for working the area of biting fish.

In addition to the weather side of North Island, other areas to look for a mixed bag of surface fish species are the Middle Grounds, the north end of South Island, the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island, the Ribbon Kelp, and the South Kelp. There have been a few halibut biting in the lee of South Island and a good area for bottom fishing for reds and rockfish has been at hard bottom areas to the north and northwest of North Island in 25 to 50 fathoms.

The San Diego County coast is producing good mixed bag fishing for calico bass, sand bass, rockfish, reds, whitefish, sheepshead, and sculpin. There has also been a chance at scratching out a yellowtail at La Jolla.

Calico bass has been providing the overall best surface fishing along the San Diego County coast but the calico bass bite has been on the general decline lately to where some of the boats on coastal trips have been focusing on fishing hard bottom areas for reds, rockfish, whitefish, and sculpin. The best calico bass fishing is currently being found at the upper end of La Jolla. Also, look for an occasional flurry of bonito and a chance at a yellowtail off the upper end of La Jolla.

The fishing for reds and rockfish has been good at hard bottom areas along the coast. Productive spots have been the region of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, The 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia, and Box Canyon.

The halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been fair. Places, where occasional halibut have been biting, have been Imperial Beach, the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, outside of South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline, and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs off Oceanside.

The late summer fishing season is providing a chance at state record size bluefin tuna but offshore fishing for more of a mixed bag of yellowfin tuna, dorado, and yellowtail has been slipping. The fall fishing season can be the best time of year so it is still very possible for the yellowfin tuna, dorado, and yellowtail to group up again and go on a strong fall season bite. I hope you can take advantage of the season and enjoy the fun fishing that is going on. 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 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

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