Fish Rap

The First Marlin of the Season, Bluefin, Yellowtail, White Seabass, Calicos and Halibut Have the Summer Fishing Season Off and Running!

Southern California ocean anglers currently have a lot of choices in what they might want to target on a fishing trip. There are bluefin tuna, yellowtail and bonito biting offshore and the first marlin of 2024 was caught several days ago. If you prefer to fish at the local islands or along the coast, there have been yellowtail, white seabass, barracuda, bonito, calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, sheephead, whitefish, halibut and a variety of bottom fish species to target during a day of fishing.

 

Bluefin tuna continue to attract much of the attention but the fishing for the bluefin can be hit or miss. Part of the hit or miss nature of the fishing is due to the fact that the best bites are often found while fishing at night with the fishing often not being as good during daylight hours. There are certainly bluefin biting during daylight hours but the best bites tend to be found during the dark.

 

The bluefin have been running from 15 to 250 pounds and they have been biting on a variety of baits and jigs with sardines, frozen flying fish, knife jigs, Colt Snipers and trolled Nomad Madmac jigs being the top baits and lures. Anglers have been encouraged to include within the tackle that they bring a 25 pound test outfit and a 40 pound test outfit for flylining live baits and a rail rod outfit spooled with at least 100 pound test line for fishing the sinker rigged sardines, the sinker rigged frozen flying fish and the knife jigs.

 

Productive areas for the bluefin have been at some of the offshore banks below and outside of Los Coronado Islands as well as in the area above the West End of San Clemente Island and off the back side of Catalina. Productive spots at some of the banks located below and outside of Los Coronado Islands have been around and about the 425 Bank, the 371 Bank, the San Salvador Knoll and the Butterfly Bank. Up above the West End of San Clemente Island a productive zone has been in the region of the 474 Spot and the nearby Snail Bank. Closer to the back side of Catalina, productive areas have been in the region of the 499 Spot and in the deep 500-plus fathom water outside of the stretch between the Farnsworth Bank and Salta Verde.

 

Some of the larger bluefin have been caught while fishing in the region of the tuna pens that have been below the 425 Bank. This area is in Mexican waters and a reminder to anglers is that Mexican law prohibits recreational fishing activities within 250 meters (820 feet) of commercial fishing vessels and fixed or floating fishing tackle. The Mexican law specifically mentions that tuna pens are considered to be commercial vessels that are covered by this law.

 

The 2024 marlin season got off to an early start with a striped marlin being caught and released outside of Los Coronado Islands on June 25. The fish was caught and released aboard the 6 pack charter yacht Nomad. The angler was Treat Clotfelter and the fish was estimated to be 170 pounds.  Clotfelter caught and released the marlin after it came up and bit a cedar plug daisy chain trolling rig. Congratulations go out to Treat Clotfelter and to the Captain and Crew of the 6 pack charter yacht Nomad!

 

The surface fishing at Los Coronado Islands has been good with a mix of yellowtail, calico bass, white seabass and barracuda biting. In addition, the bottom fishing for a variety of rockfish species remains excellent and there has also been a chance at a halibut. The most recent sportboat fish counts start with Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing having 24 anglers on a full day trip catch 13 yellowtail, 48 calico bass, 9 whitefish, 5 sculpin, 5 rockfish, 1 sheephead and 1 triggerfish. The other recent fish count was from Vendetta 2 out of H&M Landing that was out the same day and had a full day trip with 14 anglers catch 8 yellowtail, 60 calico bass and 2 sheephead. There was also a recent report from a private boater who caught 2 of the 20 to 25 pound yellowtail along with near limit to limit numbers of what was a mix of calico bass, barracuda and rockfish.

 

The water temperature around Los Coronado Islands has been running from 67 to 69 degrees and there has been some off color water moving around in the area. The general advice would be to look for areas where you find your cleanest and warmest water with a steady downhill current flow but worthy of mention is that there have also been reports of yellowtail and calico bass bites being found in the off color water.

 

The Middle Grounds has been the best area for a chance at a yellowtail and has also been producing some calico bass and barracuda. Other productive yellowtail areas have been Pukey Point at North Island, the area inside of the north end of South Island and the South Kelp below South Island. There have also been a few white seabass biting incidental to fishing these same areas for yellowtail.

 

Try for calico bass around Pukey Point, at the Middle Grounds, at the north end of South Island and at the South Kelp below South Island. Barracuda have been biting at the Middle Grounds, the area inside of the north end of South Island and at the Ribbon Kelp area inside of the lower-middle part of South Island. If you want to try for a halibut, a productive area has been drifting the sandy bottom areas along the lee side of South Island.

 

Try surface iron, yo-yo iron or flylined and dropper loop fished sardines for the yellowtail and surface iron and sardines would also be good choices for barracuda. A private boater might also want to try slow trolling nose hooked sardines for yellowtail, barracuda and white seabass.

 

The bottom fishing remains very good around Los Coronado Islands and 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. Also productive has been the rockfish fishing on the Mexico side of the border at the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank.

 

The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, rockfish, sculpin, sheephead and whitefish and has also provided a chance at catching a bonus yellowtail, halibut, white seabass or barracuda.

 

As a reminder, Southern California anglers need to take note that between July 1 and September 30 that the take of “Nearshore” rockfish species, “Shelf” rockfish species, “Slope” rockfish species and lingcod may not be taken seaward of the 50 Fathom Rockfish Conservation Area Boundary Line. The 50 Fathom Rockfish Conservation Area Boundary Line is a series of connected waypoints as defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C).  You can view the specifics of the regulations regarding this seasonal closure in detail at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website at wildlife.ca.gov.

 

The fishing at the Point Loma Kelp Beds has been very good for calico bass, and an assortment of bottom fish species and has also been producing a few legal sized barracuda, some flurries of sand bass action and an occasional yellowtail, halibut or white seabass. Looking for kelp bed areas where you find your warmest and cleanest water with a downhill current flow is usually helpful in getting a good bite going on the surface fishing species. Productive areas have been found up and down the Point Loma Kelp Beds and have included the Drop-off (located a short way above the Point Loma Lighthouse), 5 Tanks, the Lab, the Green Tank and Point Loma College.

 

Although yellowtail have started showing more at Point Loma, La Jolla remains the best area for a chance at a coastal yellowtail and has also been very good for calico bass and an assortment of bottom fish species. To add to the bright picture, the La Jolla area has also been producing a few white seabass and legal sized barracuda along with an occasional halibut. Productive areas have been the Variety Kelp that is located below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, kelp areas along the middle part of La Jolla that are above the same MLPA closure zone and the kelp at the upper end of La Jolla.

 

Going further up the San Diego County coast, there has been good to very good fishing for calico bass, sand bass, an assortment of bottom fish species and an occasional bonus halibut or legal sized barracuda while fishing kelp bed and hard bottom areas off Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia, South Carlsbad and the Barn.

 

Anchovies have been great baits for the calico bass which have also been biting well on sardines. Sardines, mackerel and surface iron have been good options for yellowtail with good choices for surface iron including Tady 45 and Salas 7X light jigs in blue and white, mint and sardine colors. Sardines and those same surface iron jigs would also be good choices for barracuda. Sardines, surface iron and squid would also be good options for a chance at a white seabass.

 

The yellowtail at La Jolla are usually seen or metered around areas of bait and are often marked by working birds. In addition to surface iron and flylining sardines or mackerel for yellowtail, private boaters might also want to try slow trolling sardines or mackerel. If you are metering fish deep, there have also been occasional yellowtail hookups that have come on sardines or mackerel that are fished on a dropper loop rig. There have also been occasional yellowtail hookups reported on trolled Rapalas.

 

In addition to the halibut biting at Los Coronado Islands as talked about above, there are fair to sometimes pretty good numbers of halibut biting along the San Diego County coast. Productive halibut areas include San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the sandy bottom areas adjacent to hard bottom spots outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, the sandy bottom adjacent to the Yukon Shipwreck and adjacent to 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 outside of Oceanside.

 

The summer fishing season is underway and the fishing continues to improve on many fronts. I hope you take the time to enjoy the summer fishing season by getting out on the water and doing as much fishing as possible! 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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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