The 2021 run of bluefin tuna off the Southern California and Northern Baja coast started in the late winter months and has now carried over through the spring and into the summer. Offshore anglers are not only finding good numbers of bluefin tuna biting but are also catching a nice complementary mix of large bonito and mixed-size yellowtail. As a sign of things likely to come as the summer progresses, the past week also saw a couple of yellowfin tuna caught incidental to fishing for bluefin tuna.
The bluefin tuna have been quality-sized fish that have ranged in size from 18 to 220-plus pounds with most falling within the 30 to 120-pound range. The yellowtail have been mostly 5 to 12-pound fish with an occasional larger fish to 30 pounds also in the mix. The bonito being caught have been jumbo-sized bonito that have been in the 8 to 12-pound range.
The main bluefin bite area is currently within 40 miles of Point Loma for boats working the waters around and below the 425 Bank and working in the area ranging from south to southwest of the 371 Bank. The area being fished in the region of the 371 Bank has boats fishing from 32 to 38 miles 200 to 207 degrees from Point Loma and the region producing bluefin around and below the 425 Bank has boats working from 24 to 28 miles 200 to 207 degrees from Point Loma.
Bluefin have been biting during daylight hours but the best bluefin fishing continues to be found during the dark. The bluefin fishing during daylight hours has been improving though and those not wanting to fish during the dark hours have seen their bluefin catches improving when compared to the daylight hours fishing of a week ago.
The best bluefin methods have been fishing with 4-ounce torpedo sinker rigged sardines and fishing with Flat Fall jigs. There have also been improving numbers of bluefin biting for those fishing fly-lined sardines and on sardines that are being fished on the surface with a kite. The Flat Fall jigs tend to work best during the dark and the torpedo sinker rigged fished sardines tend to work best during the daylight hours. If sardines are hard to get for bait, anchovies have also been working but anglers have usually had to use the lighter tackle to get the bluefin to bite the anchovies.
Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported about fishing on a recent trip to the 371 Bank and the 425 Bank areas. Golding said they started out the day fishing the area below the 371 Bank where they hooked and lost 2 bluefin tuna. Those bluefin hookups came while drifting with sardines over meter marks found at 32 miles 196 degrees from Point Loma. When things quieted down, Golding said he did some looking around and worked several miles to the northwest where he found a kelp paddy that produced three yellowtail.
As the day progressed Golding worked back inside toward the 425 Bank and ended up in the area below the 425 Bank where they caught their first bluefin of the day on a sinker rig fished sardine while drifting over meter marks. A short while later Golding found a kelp paddy that he thought might be holding some yellowtail. What he found was a pleasant surprise as this kelp paddy was holding biting bluefin tuna instead of yellowtail. They were successful in landing one bluefin out of the two bluefin that they hooked at the kelp paddy to end up with two bluefin tuna and three yellowtail for the day. The zone where they caught their 2 bluefin was below the 425 Bank at 28 miles 187 degrees from Point Loma. The water temperature in the area where they were finding fish was running 65.5 to 66 degrees.
Private boater Ray Millman of Go The Distance reported about going out fishing on a three-day trip aboard Polaris Supreme that returned home to Seaforth Sportfishing with 24 anglers having caught their limits of 144 bluefin tuna and one yellowfin tuna. This hot bluefin fishing was found while working the waters off of Ensenada which is within easy one-day range of Point Loma.
Millman said that most of their bluefin were caught in the dark while using Flat Fall jigs. He reported that they also caught bluefin during the daylight hours on sinker rigged sardines and on the smaller-sized 160 gram Flat Fall jigs. Millman’s report said during the day, it helped to get bites if you dropped down to using a 40-pound test line. He said that at night, they were getting bites while using 80 or 100-pound test-line to fish the larger-sized Flat Fall jigs.
Millman said the highlight bite of the trip started at night at 11:00 PM when the bluefin turned on and were biting the Flat Fall jigs wide open. He said the bite lasted for two hours and that they had as many as 10 hookups going at once during the frenzied two-hour bite. Most of their bluefin were reported to be in the 40 to 65-pound range and he said that they had 2 bluefin over 100 pounds. The big fish for the trip was a 180-pound bluefin that was caught on a kite-fished bait. Millman had nothing but praise for Polaris Supreme and its Captain and Crew.
Not many boats have been fishing Los Coronado Islands lately due to the good tuna fishing offshore but the few reports coming from the Islands have been of good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, bonito, barracuda, calico bass, reds, rockfish, whitefish, and sculpin. The best surface fishing during the past week been barracuda, but the most recent report from yesterday’s fishing was of good surface fishing for both barracuda and yellowtail.
Productive yellowtail areas have been the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, and the Lighthouse at the south tip of South Island. Yellowtail have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks, spots of fish up on the surface, trolling strikes on deep diving Rapalas, and trolling strikes on slow trolled sardines. Good choices for surface iron that should be good choices for yellowtail and barracuda include Salas 7X lights and Tady 45’s in blue and white, mint and sardine colors.
The Middle Grounds has been the best zone for a mixed bag catch of calico bass, barracuda, and yellowtail. Good places for calico bass and barracuda have been the South Kelp, the Ribbon Kelp, the north end of South Island, the backside of South Island, and the Middle Grounds. Bonito tend to show up at the Middle Grounds, the Rockpile, and the weather side of North Island.
The bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands continues to be good and some of the best spots have been at the hard bottom to the northwest and north of North Island in 30 to 50 fathoms.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast is pretty much the same as it has been in recent weeks with good mixed bag fishing for rockfish, reds, whitefish, sculpin, sand bass, and calico bass. One improvement from the past weekend of fishing is that there was some white seabass activity reported. Additional catches have been for an occasional bonus lingcod, yellowtail, barracuda, or halibut.
The yellowtail fishing along the San Diego area coast continues to be slow with the upper end of La Jolla tending to provide the best chance at coastal yellowtail. Other areas where some occasional yellowtail activity has been reported have been Del Mar, Solana Beach, and the Barn. Look for spots of breaking fish under working birds out in the 18 to 40-fathom depths and also look for an occasional yellowtail hookup incidental to fishing for calico bass along the edges of the kelp beds. Surface iron, yo-yo iron, fly-lined sardines, and slow trolled mackerel have been good choices for yellowtail with surface iron usually working best when cast to breaking fish.
Calico bass have been providing the best surface fishing along the San Diego area coast and the kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla have been best for the calicos. Other productive kelp beds and hard bottom areas for calico bass are the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, Point Loma College, the Roundhouse at Sunset Cliffs, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the kelp off Leucadia, the kelp off South Carlsbad and the Barn Kelp.
There have been a couple of unconfirmed reports about white seabass biting at night at La Jolla but what has been confirmed is that there have been a few legal-sized white seabass biting during daylight hours at the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma. A recent report was of a 20-pound white seabass being caught at the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma and it was caught on a sardine that was fished with a sliding egg sinker.
Productive hard bottom and structure areas for the reds, rockfish, whitefish, and lingcod are the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the International Reef, the Whistler Buoy and the Dropoff outside of Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, “The 270” out to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, the ridge outside of Del Mar and at hard bottom areas off South Carlsbad, Leucadia and Box Canyon.
The halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast remains scratchy but there has been a slight improvement to report during the past couple of weeks. Places along the San Diego County coast where halibut have been reported in recent weeks have been San Diego Bay, outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, outside of South Ponto Beach, the Buccaneer Pipeline and the artificial reefs off Oceanside.
The summer fishing season is here! I hope you can get out and enjoy as much fishing as possible while we are in the prime season of the year. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.