Fish Report: Early December Offshore Fishing Still Offering Bluefin Tuna, Yellowtail, and Swordfish!

SAN DIEGO一 Recent years have seen Southern California’s offshore fishing season last well into the month of December and this year is currently in line with that trend with the first part of December seeing offshore anglers catching bluefin tuna, yellowtail, and swordfish. The absence of powerful northern and western weather systems continues to allow the water temperature to remain at around 64.5 degrees where the bluefin has been biting at the Tanner Bank and good numbers of bluefin have been content to hold in the area with the current water conditions.


Recent bluefin catches have been made up of fish that have mostly been running from 25 to 80 pounds with a chance at locating some larger bluefin to 100-plus pounds still in the picture. It has been a while since I have had reports of bluefin biting that have been up into the 200-pound class.


Bluefin have been biting on sardines, mackerel, kite-fished frozen flying fish, flat fall jigs, and knife jigs with an occasional trolling strike also coming on spreader bar trolling rigs. What has also been effective at times and that has helped to target larger bluefin has been to slow troll live mackerel in areas where you are getting meter marks, sonar marks, or finding spots of breaking fish.


The best areas around the Tanner Bank have been fishing to the northwest, the north, the east, and the southeast of the Tanner Bank high spot. A good overall depth range has been in 40 to 250 fathoms with a good percentage of the bluefin activity being found within the 50 to 100-fathom depth range.


The most recent fish counts start with Seaforth Sportfishing that reports that Pacific Voyager got back from a 2.5-day trip that saw 17 anglers catch 68 bluefin tuna and 27 yellowtail. The bluefin aboard Pacific Voyager was reported to have ranged from 35 to 80 pounds. Point Loma Sportfishing had New Lo-An return from a two-day trip that saw 25 anglers catch 100 bluefin tuna and two yellowtail. The bluefin aboard New Lo-An was reported to have ranged in size up to 80 pounds and their yellowtail went to 20 pounds. Fisherman’s Landing had Condor return from a 1.5-day trip where 29 anglers caught 39 bluefin tuna. The bluefin aboard Condor was reported to have been in the 25 to 70-pound range. Fisherman’s Landing also had Outrider return from a 1.5-day trip that saw nine anglers catch five bluefin tuna.


Boats that have been deep-drop fishing for swordfish report seeing occasional spots of breaking bluefin tuna off the backside of the 9 Mile Bank, at the Coronado Canyon, and around the 178 Spot. Most of the time the boats that see these fish are drifting with their deep drop gear in the water and do not chase after the bluefin they see. That aside, the common report from those that have tried to present baits and lures to the bluefin seen in these areas is that they do not seem interested in biting.


After a week or so of seeing the deep drop fishing for swordfish on the decline, the deep drop fishing for swordfish has rallied and boats in the San Diego region have once again been scratching out an occasional swordfish by deep drop fishing areas such as the Coronado Canyon, the 9 Mile Bank and the 178 Spot. The upper end of the 9 Mile Bank and the 178 Spot have been the best. There was a recent report of a boat catching two swordfish while in the region of the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank and the nearby 178 Spot.


There were two swordfish caught by boats fishing the 178 Spot and upper end of the 9 Mile Bank on Dec. 5. One of those swordfish was caught by private boater Captain Bob Woodard Jr. of Dropback. It was an extra special catch of a 140.8-pound swordfish as Woodard hooked and spent most of the time fighting the swordfish while fishing solo.


Woodard re-injured an arm during the battle with the swordfish and became limited in what he could do. He was provided help with the end part of the fight and with the gaffing of the fish by Priceless which put someone aboard Woodard’s boat that could provide assistance. Woodard said he fought the fish solo for 2 hours and 10 minutes before help came aboard from Priceless and that it took another 20 minutes to get the fish to gaff and boat it. Woodard was thankful to the Captain and crew of Priceless for their assistance. Congratulations go out to Captain Bob Woodard Jr. of Dropback for winning that epic swordfish battle and making a fantastic catch!


There have not been any recent reports coming from Los Coronado Islands but the most recent reports were of good fishing for a mixed bag of bonito, calico bass, reds, rockfish, lingcod, and whitefish to go with a chance at scratching out yellowtail.


At last report, the yellowtail fishing around Los Coronado Islands was slow but there was a chance at finding yellowtail along the weather side of North Island, at the Middle Grounds, or the South Kelp Ridge. At last report, there had also been occasional flurries of bonito activity, and the best areas for a chance at finding bonito were along the weather side of North Island and at the Middle Grounds. Most of the bonito were the smaller-sized two to three-pound fish which were biting on trolled cedar plugs and sardines. The best areas for calico bass were the South Kelp, the Ribbon Kelp, and the Middle Grounds.


The best zone around Los Coronado Islands for bottom fishing that has been producing a mix of reds, salmon grouper, rockfish, and an occasional lingcod has been working hard bottom areas to the north and northwest of North Island in the 30 to 50-fathom depths. The outer part of the South Kelp Ridge below South Island has also been a productive area for the bottom fishing in the same 30 to 50-fathom depths.


The fishing along the San Diego County coast remains good for a mixed bag of reds, rockfish, whitefish, sculpin, bonito, and bass. The fishing for yellowtail along the San Diego County coast has been slow but there has been occasional yellowtail activity reported at the upper end of La Jolla.


If you find yellowtail working on the surface, good choices would be surface iron, slow trolled sardines, slow trolled mackerel, fly lined sardines, and fly lined mackerel. Try using yo-yo-ed iron, dropper loop fished sardines and dropper loop fished mackerel should you locate yellowtail meter marks.


Productive areas for the mixed bag coastal fishing for bass, sculpin, whitefish, reds, and rockfish have been hard bottom areas around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 off Point Loma, hard bottom areas off of the Green Tank at Point Loma, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, The 270 located to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia and Box Canyon.


When current and water conditions are right there has been good calico bass fishing at the kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla and at the Jetty Kelp off Mission Bay.  The afternoon hours tend to be the best for the calicos and the fish tend to get active when there is a steady downhill current flow. Finding kelp bed areas with clean water and a water temperature of 64.5 to 65.5 degrees has been the combination of watercolor and temperature that has produced most of the good calico bass fish.


The fishing for halibut is still slow.  Recent weeks have seen occasional halibut being reported and some of the better areas for a chance at a halibut have been off Mission Beach at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower and at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck.  Additional areas that provide a chance at scratching out a halibut have been Imperial Beach, South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline, and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs off Oceanside.


December can be a productive month for Southern California saltwater anglers and I hope you do not make the mistake of putting away your fishing gear for the winter while there is still good fishing to be had offshore, at the Islands, and along the coast. I hope you can get out on the water and enjoy some of the fun December 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 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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