Area Anglers Are Now in Cold-Water Bottomfishing Mode

By: Bob Vanian

The water temperatures in the San Diego region are, for the most part, in the 56- to 59-degree range — and cold-water bottomfishing season is in full swing.  

San Diego area anglers have been doing well on an assortment of bottomfish that include salmon grouper, reds, sculpin, whitefish, sheephead, lingcod and a few bass. Several of these species are under a seasonal rockfish closure in Southern California waters beginning Jan. 1, 2012, so be sure to check the regulations before you head out in the new year.

Jan. 1 also marks the implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act-mandated closures in Southern California. The new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) will make many longtime-popular fishing spots off-limits to fishing from now on — so, be sure you are up to date on these regulations, as well. The California Department of Fish and Game website — dfg.ca.gov — is a place to check for the closure areas and to keep up to date on what species are out of season.

Even though we’re now in the cold-water bottomfishing season, there is still a chance for anglers to encounter a good-sized yellowtail or white seabass at La Jolla. Boats fishing Mexico’s Punta Colnett region on 1.5- to 2.5-day trips are also finding an occasional flurry of yellowtail action while looking around on the rockfish grounds.

Between Punta Colnett and Punta San Jose, anglers continue to catch an assortment of bottomfish — highlighted by catches of nice-sized reds and lingcod. Anglers have also found occasional yellowtail bites here, so it is a good idea to have an outfit ready to fish yo-yoed iron or a sardine on a dropper-loop rig.

Pacific Voyager, a long-range sportfishing boat out of San Diego’s Seaforth Sportfishing, fished a recent 2.5-day trip and found some yellowtail action — in addition to limit fishing for reds and 18 lingcod. They had a count of 20 anglers catching 170 rockfish, 200 reds, 18 lingcod and 12 yellowtail.

Los Coronados islands have not seen much fishing pressure lately, but boats that have been fishing around the islands have generally been returning with an assortment of reds, salmon grouper and whitefish. The best areas for bottomfish have been along the outer ridges between South Island and the Rockpile, as well as hard-bottom spots north of North Island. The lower end of the 9-Mile Bank has also been productive for bottomfish.

San Diego area coastal fishing has been steadily producing a variety of bottom species — with reds, salmon grouper, rockfish, sheephead and sculpin biting, along with a few bass.

Sheephead fishing has been a highlight of the action at La Jolla. Boats fishing the area between the Pine Tree at Sunset Cliffs and the Green Tank at Point Loma have also been picking up some nice-sized sheephead.

Larger sheephead weighing around 20 pounds have been biting best on strips of fresh or fresh-frozen squid, fished right on the bottom.

The sportfishing boat New Seaforth, out of Seaforth Sportfishing, made two recent half-day trips to La Jolla, in which 51 anglers caught 40 sheephead, 214 rockfish, seven reds, seven whitefish, seven sand bass, five sculpin and one lingcod.

Dolphin, out of Fisherman’s Landing, posted totals that included 23 sheephead on a couple of recent half-day trips fishing the Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs region. A total of 81 anglers on two half-day trips caught a total of 205 rockfish, 23 sheephead, four sculpin, one cabezon, one lingcod, two calico bass and three whitefish.

Boats fishing up and down the San Diego County coast have found their best bottomfishing while working hard-bottom and structure spots. In addition to the areas already described, productive spots have included the Imperial Beach and Point Loma pipelines, the Buoyline at Point Loma, Del Mar, Cardiff and the Buccaneer Pipeline.

Squid have been available to catch for bait at night, at the middle part of La Jolla and at the upper end of La Jolla. There have also been times when squid could be jigged during the early-morning daylight hours. Anglers fishing with live squid have, in recent weeks, caught an occasional good-sized yellowtail or white seabass. 

Bob Vanian is the voice, writer and researcher of the San Diego-based Internet fish report service 976-Bite at 976bite.com. Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service at (619) 226-8218. Vanian’s reports can be heard at 8:20 a.m. each Sunday on the “Let’s Talk Hookup” radio show, at 1090 AM. He always welcomes your fish reports at (619) 226-8218.

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