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Spring Surface Fishing Season Continues to Show Areas of Improvement!

The spring fishing season continues to develop with a chance at bluefin tuna and kelp paddy yellowtail in offshore waters, with yellowtail and an assortment of bottom fish species biting around Los Coronado Islands and with calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, whitefish, reds, rockfish, halibut, yellowtail and barracuda possibilities at spots along the San Diego County coast.

Bluefin tuna have been biting during the late winter and early spring season but the bite is trying to emerge out of a 3 week slump. Things are starting to look better with an area of biting bluefin located out to the southwest of Punta Colnett several days ago but the bite has been hit or miss and only fair for most boats. The best catch I know of from this new area of bluefin was made aboard American Angler out of Point Loma Sportfishing that made a catch that included 22 bluefin tuna. Most of the boats that went to fish that same area over the past few days did not fare as well and had bluefin counts that were in single digits. Some boats ended up leaving the bluefin area to go inside to fish the rockfish grounds off Punta Colnett where there was good fishing for a mix of reds and rockfish to go with a few lingcod, yellowtail and bonito.

Most of the bluefin have been in the 40 to 80 pound range and the best bluefin zone has been to the southwest of Punta Colnett in an area located 120 to 130 miles 164 to 167 degrees from Point Loma. Bluefin have been caught during the night and during the day with the night time fishing usually being the best. Knife jigs fished during the dark have been working best when dropped down to sonar marks and meter marks. Also try sinker rigged sardines during the night and the day as well as flylined sardines during the day.

 The fishing at Los Coronado Islands has been good for a mix of reds, rockfish, whitefish, sculpin and an occasional lingcod but the big news is that recent days have also seen an increase in yellowtail activity. The best yellowtail count was from yesterday’s fishing when Liberty out of Fisherman’s Landing had 21 anglers on a full day trip catch 21 yellowtail, 60 rockfish, 20 sculpin and 1 lingcod.

The water temperature around Los Coronado Islands has been running from 60.5 to 62 degrees with the best yellowtail activity being found in the warmer 62 degree water in the region of the Rockpile. Try surface iron, yo-yo iron or flylined and dropper loop fished sardines for the yellowtail.

The best areas for the mixed bag bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands have been to the northwest, north and northeast of North Island in 25 to 60 fathoms and on the Mexico side of the border at the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank. Another productive rockfish zone has been at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in the 25 to 45 fathom depths.

 There has also been some yellowtail activity along the San Diego County coast with recent showings of yellowtail being reported off Point Loma and La Jolla. La Jolla has been the best for a chance at a yellowtail but it has not been easy to get them to bite at either location. The yellowtail usually show on the surface or are metered down deep around areas of bait and are often marked by working birds.

The yellowtail activity at La Jolla is usually found in 8 to 30 fathoms with the 14 to 20 fathom depths often being the best. The best zones to try to locate yellowtail at La Jolla have been along the outskirts of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla as well as outside of the upper end of La Jolla while fishing to the west of “The Hotel.”  At Point Loma, yellowtail have been reported to have been seen in the vicinity of the Whistler Buoy and have been found under working birds.

The key to finding yellowtail along the coast has been locating schools of bait. Yo-yo iron fished around yellowtail meter marks that are found around deep bait balls continues to account for most of the yellowtail hookups and good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X and 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white and scrambled egg colors. Colt Sniper style yo-yo jigs have also been effective at times.

As the spring season has progressed, surface iron has become more and more effective for yellowtail and can work well when you can cast the jig to breaking fish before they sound. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45 and Salas 7X light jigs in blue and white, mint and sardine colors.

There have also been yellowtail hooked using things other than iron with trolled Rapalas also producing an occasional yellowtail. Also effective have been mackerel and sardines when fished from a dropper loop rig or when slow trolled.

A recent improvement in the development of the spring time surface fishing is that there has been barracuda activity off Point Loma and La Jolla. Most of the barracuda being caught are short sized fish that must be released but there has also been an occasional legal sized barracuda found in the mix.

Hard bottom and structure areas up and down the San Diego County coast have been producing a good mix of calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, sheephead, and whitefish along with an occasional halibut.

Productive areas for the sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, sheephead and whitefish include the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, the Barn and San Onofre.

Good coastal and near shore areas for rockfish fishing have been the outside edges of the middle part of the 9 Mile Bank while on the United States side of the Mexico Border, the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank, the 270 out to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia, South Carlsbad, Box Canyon and the 14 Mile Bank.

There is also a chance at finding some biting halibut in San Diego Bay as well as at spots up and down the San Diego County coast. A mid-week halibut special trip for the halibut derby aboard Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing had 32 anglers on a three-quarter day trip catch 20 halibut, 20 short sized halibut that were released and 25 “orange mouth corbina.”

Productive halibut areas do include spots in San Diego Bay. Productive areas in San Diego Bay have been drifting around the bait receivers, the sandy bottom around the end of the sunken jetty on the Coronado side of the entrance to San Diego Bay as well as the Coronado side of the main channel between the upper end of Harbor Island and the Coronado Bay Bridge. Down below the Coronado Bay Bridge also try off National City and Chula Vista while on the National City and Chula Vista side of the channel.

Off Imperial Beach, try for halibut at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Imperial Beach Pipeline as well as at the sandy bottom areas adjacent to hard bottom spots outside of the Imperial Beach Pier. There have also been halibut biting off Mission Beach at the sandy bottom adjacent to the Yukon Shipwreck and adjacent to the sunken NEL Tower.

Further north, additional areas that have been producing an occasional legal sized halibut have been South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside. Also productive has been fishing around pipeline and structure spots up in the San Onofre and Point San Mateo areas in 30 to 50 feet.

The spring surface fishing season has had it’s ups and downs but is continuing to improve with barracuda showing up along the coast and with yellowtail starting to bite at Los Coronado Islands and showing off La Jolla and Point Loma. Bluefin tuna are still in the picture and biting but anglers are hopeful that the bluefin bite will pick up the pace before long. There is still very good and consistent spring time fishing to be found for a mixed bag of calico bass, sand bass, reds, rockfish, whitefish, sculpin and halibut. 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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