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Late into November and Bluefin, Yellowtail, and Swordfish are Still Biting Offshore!

SAN DIEGO-   This year has been a good and lengthy offshore fishing season and the amazing thing is the book is still open as we enter into the late part of November. As this report is being written, Southern California offshore anglers are still active and are catching large bluefin tuna and mixed-size kelp-paddy yellowtail.  Also available is the chance of catching a swordfish by doing some deep drop fishing. If northern and western weather systems continue to steer clear of Southern California waters, the water temperature might well stay warm enough for these fish to stay with us a little while longer.


As has been the case during most of the 2021 offshore fishing season, bluefin tuna continue to highlight the offshore fishing with good numbers still biting that are ranging in size from 30 to 200-plus pounds. The Tanner Bank is the current hot spot area for bluefin for boats fishing deep water in an area ranging from northwest over to northeast of the Tanner Bank high spot. There are also good numbers of bluefin being seen in other areas such as the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy, the Butterfly Bank, the San Salvador Knoll, the 390 Bank, the 371 Bank, the 425 Bank, the 302 Spot, the area 4 to 10 miles west of North Island and the 9 Mile Bank but the bluefin found in these areas have not been biting as well as the bluefin found at the Tanner Bank.


Boats have been fishing the Tanner Bank on trips that are usually 1.5-day trips or longer. As an example of the recent fishing, Fisherman’s Landing reports that the Outrider was out on a 1.5-day trip that saw 6 anglers catch their limit of 12 bluefin tuna. Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing just got back from a 1.5-day trip that saw 34 anglers catch 34 bluefin tuna. Fisherman’s Landing also reported that Pacific Dawn returned home from a 2.5-day trip and saw 12 anglers catch 11 bluefin tuna.


Another example of the recent bluefin fishing was the fish count on New Lo-An out of Point Loma Sportfishing that just returned from a 3-day trip that saw 18 anglers catch 40 bluefin tuna. Point Loma Sportfishing reports that most of the bluefin caught on New Lo-An were in the 30 to 80-pound range with a big fish of 180 pounds.


Most of the bluefin at the Tanner Bank have been caught while drifting over meter marks or sonar marks with occasional spots of breezing or breaking fish also leading to bluefin stops. Best baits for the bluefin have been sinker rigged sardines, flylined sardines, kite fished frozen flying fish, flat fall jigs, and knife jigs.


As talked about above, boats fishing some of the local offshore banks within 45 miles or so of Point Loma have been seeing bluefin tuna that have not been biting very well. Most of those areas have also been holding yellowtail around some of the kelp paddies and finding the “right” kelp paddy can produce limits of yellowtail. The best areas for yellowtail have been in the area of the 302 Spot, 425 Bank, 371 Bank, the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy, the San Salvador Knoll, and the 390 Bank.


Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported about a recent trip to the Butterfly Bank and the San Salvador Knoll. Golding reported seeing several spots of breaking bluefin and also found some kelp paddies that were holding biting yellowtail. Golding was fishing with his boat partner Steve Kunitake and the two anglers caught their limits of yellowtail and released an additional twenty yellowtail. Golding reported that the yellows were mixed-sized fish ranging in size from throwbacks to 18 pounds.


Golding reported seeing spots of breezing bluefin and breaking bluefin during the day but could not get the bluefin to bite. The bluefin they were seeing were mixed-sized fish that went up to around 70 pounds. Golding reported a beautiful and warm day out on the water with glassy sea conditions. In the morning the water temperatures were in the 64 to 66-degree range but as the day progressed the hot sun caused the surface water temperature to warm up to the 68 to 70-degree range.


Deep drop fishing for swordfish continues to produce swordfish bites and hookups and November 12 and 13 saw 28 boats with 65 anglers participating in the first IGFA Southern California Swordfish Open Tournament. Most boats in the tournament were primarily focused on deep drop fishing for swordfish while at the same time hoping to spot a finning swordfish up on the surface. Most boats in the tournament were working areas such as the 9 Mile Bank, the 178 Spot, and the 43 Fathom Spot.


The swordfish bite was best on the first day of the tournament and the first day of fishing saw seven swordfish hookups with two lost, two caught and released and three boated. The second day of fishing also brought success with two swordfish boated out of three or four hookups. My unofficial statistics was that the big fish of the tournament was a 298.7-pound swordfish caught by Greg Tate aboard the SS Minnow.  Another tournament highlight was that the boat Lucas J caught two swordfish during the two-day tournament.


The fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been producing a few yellowtail along with a mix of bass, bonito, and good numbers of a mixed bag of bottom fish that include reds, whitefish, rockfish, and a few lingcod. The most recent sportboat trip to Los Coronado Islands was on San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing that was out on a full day trip with 12 anglers who caught five yellowtail, 60 whitefish, two lingcod and two sheepshead. Seaforth Sportfishing reports that the yellowtail caught aboard San Diego were nice sized fish that ranged from 22 to 28 pounds.


Best areas for a chance at a yellowtail at Los Coronado Islands have been along the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, and the South Kelp Ridge. Locate yellowtail by finding meter marks, sonar marks, spots of breaking fish, trolling strikes on slow trolled sardines, and trolling strikes on Rapalas. Once located, try flylined sardines, dropper loop fished sardines, slow trolled sardines, surface iron, and yo-yo iron.


Best spots for calico bass have been at kelp bed and hard bottom areas around South Island. Best spot for a chance at finding bonito has been along the weather side of North Island. The best zone for the bottom fishing for a mix of reds, salmon grouper, lingcod, and rockfish has been while working hard bottom areas to the north and northwest of North Island in the 30 to 50 fathom depths.


The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been 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 mostly slow but there has been a bit more yellowtail activity in recent days for boats fishing off the upper end of La Jolla. A recent afternoon half-day trip fish count on New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing saw 27 anglers catch four yellowtail, 84 rockfish and five calico bass.


Surface iron, yo-yo iron, slow trolled sardines, slow trolled mackerel, flylined sardines, and flylined mackerel would all be good choices for yellowtail that are found on the surface. Try using yo-yoed iron, dropper loop rig, fished sardines, and dropper loop fished mackerel when fishing 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 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.


There is not much new to report on the halibut fishing which remains mostly slow. There was a recent private boater report of catching a couple of legal sized halibut drifting the sandy bottom adjacent to the sunken NEL Tower and Yukon Shipwreck areas off Pacific Beach. Additional areas that have produced halibut in recent weeks have been Imperial 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 fall offshore fishing season continues to produce some impressive catches of offshore species and this fishing might go on a while longer if northern and western storms do not come through and drop the water temperature. I hope you can get out on the water and enjoy some of the fun late season 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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