By: Bob Vanian
The San Diego area offshore fishing season continues to improve, with bluefin tuna, yellowtail and dorado all possibilities on fishing trips within one-day range of Point Loma.
Boats that have been fishing areas between 185 and 200 miles south of Point Loma on 2.5-day and longer trips have been finding good action on bigger bluefin tuna that have gone up over 100 pounds. The summer offshore fishing season continues to improve — and it should just keep getting better as the season progresses, with yellowfin tuna also likely to start making an impact during the upcoming weeks.
Albacore can now be said to be behind their “traditional schedule” of arriving in local offshore waters shortly after the Fourth of July, but they could also certainly show up during the upcoming weeks and add to the excitement.
The past few days have seen boats fishing on one- and 1.5-day trips in the same general areas. There have been yellowtail, bluefin tuna and an occasional dorado or yellowfin tuna biting in an area between 60 and 85 miles, 154 to 177 degrees from Point Loma.
Boats fishing the more inside part of that zone tend to catch better numbers of yellowtail, fishing kelp paddies found in the deep water outside of the Banda Bank and Peanut Bank. Boats fishing the more outside part of that zone tend to have a better shot at bluefin tuna while fishing kelp paddies, finding sonar marks and getting an occasional trolling strike in the area below the 295 Bank.
Capt. Scott Meisel of Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing posted a count of 26 anglers catching limits of yellowtail (130 yellowtail) and 20 bluefin tuna on his most recent 1.5- day trip. In a recent conversation with Meisel, he reported lots of yellowtail holding under kelp paddies — with most of the yellowtail in the 6- to 12- pound range, with a few bigger yellowtail up into the 20-pound class also in the mix.
On the day of his report, he had limited out on yellowtail during the morning and was headed farther offshore to maximize the chances for catching more bluefin tuna for the remainder of the trip.
Private boater John Carroll of Huachinango fished on a recent 2.5- day trip aboard Islander out of Fisherman’s Landing. Carroll reported that they had a great trip, catching limits of yellowtail and 44 bluefin tuna.
Carroll personally caught his limit of yellowtail and three bluefin tuna. The fish Carroll caught included a 26- pound yellowtail and an 80-pound bluefin tuna. The 26-pound yellowtail was the biggest yellowtail on the trip and the 80-pound bluefin tuna was the biggest bluefin.
Private boater Mike Kraus of Black Jack reported fishing a recent trip out of Marina Coral in Ensenada, Mexico. This was the first fishing trip on his new 35-foot Cabo sportfisher. He had a fine day of fishing, catching 17 yellowtail and a bluefin tuna.
Kraus said that they had action on sardines, iron jigs and trolling jigs while fishing areas between the deep water outside of the Banda Bank and the Lower 500 Bank. They were finding action in an area 72 to 78 miles, 159 to 161 degrees from Point Loma.
Private boater Capt. Ron Bowers of Salt Fever fished a recent two-day trip, catching eight bluefin tuna and six yellowtail. Bowers fished outside of the Peanut Bank on the first day of the trip and caught six yellowtail and six bluefin tuna. Four of the bluefin were caught from a kelp paddy found 85 miles, 156 degrees from Point Loma.
The highlight fish of the trip was a big 70-pound bluefin caught from a kelp paddy 84 miles, 154 degrees from Point Loma. The big bluefin bit on a Megabait/Laser Minnow-style iron jig, and it bit the jig on the sink.
On the second day of the trip, Bowers fished alongside a couple of tuna pens that were in a holding pattern with their tow boats, below the 475 Knuckle, 50 miles from Point Loma. He reported a few bluefin showing around the tuna pens, but no action while drifting around the pens.
When he left the tuna pens to head back up to Point Loma, his boat got two single jig strikes on 16-pound bluefin tuna within 1.5 miles of the tuna pens. In each instance, they caught the jig fish and lost a hookup on a baitfish.
There are a few more dorado and yellowtail beginning to show under kelp paddies spread from outside of the Coronados on up to the Catalina Channel — and there are also some bluefin tuna showing on the outside part of the Kidney Bank and by the 371 Bank.
Specific areas where kelp paddies have been producing an occasional yellowtail or dorado include the 14- Mile Bank, the Steamer Lane below and outside of the 14-Mile Bank, the 267 Spot, the 209 Spot, the 181 Spot, the 9-Mile Bank and the 302 Spot. Of all these areas, the paddies holding the best numbers of fish have been found above the 9-Mile Bank — 18 miles, 276 degrees from Point Loma.
Private boater Marcus Hale of Old Blue fished a recent trip to the Kidney Bank and reported catching an 18.8- pound yellowtail — and getting into an area where they were chasing around small spots of bluefin tuna that were up and working small baitfish. The bluefin did not want to bite, but there was a steady showing of small spots of 30- to 40-pound fish over a four-hour period.
Hale reported that the bluefin were focused on their natural feed and did not want anything to do with the sardines, iron or trolling jigs they were presented. The bluefin were found to the west and southwest of the 302 Spot — 23 to 25 miles, 226 to 235 degrees from Point Loma.
Private boater Jim Cunningham of Sea Ya reported that his son, Jason Cunningham, took the boat out fishing with Jim’s grandson, Kyle Dotson, and a couple of friends. Jim said that Jason fished the 425 Bank, 371 Bank and Hidden Bank areas during the morning hours and found “nothing doing” — except for seeing some spots of breaking bluefin tuna that did not want to bite, out by the 371 Bank.
After their slow morning of fishing, Jim said that they picked up and ran down to the 1010 Trench. The move paid off, as they wound up catching a couple of 20-pound yellowtail from kelp paddies.
In addition to the two large yellowtail, they also hooked a big mystery fish that was lost after a 1.5-hour battle. They never saw the mystery fish, but they suspect it was a big opah.
There has been excellent sand bass fishing for boats fishing the Flats outside of the Bull Ring at Tijuana, Mexico. The boats on three-quarterday Los Coronados islands trips and most of the half-day trips from San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have been fishing this bite and doing very well, with many limit sand bass catches being reported. Anchovies have been the best bait for sand bass.
Private boater Jim Covell of Sea Bear fished the sand bass bite off the Bull Ring and reported catching limits. After limiting out on the sand bass, Covell ran out to the lower end of the 9-Mile Bank and did some bottomfishing. He reported catching a good number of rockfish that were mostly nicesized chuckleheads and salmon grouper.
At Los Coronados islands, there has been a mix of barracuda and calico bass biting, along with an occasional yellowtail. Some of the better spots for surface fishing have been the north end of South Island, the Ribbon Kelp and the South Kelp Ridge.
There has been a mix of calico bass, barracuda and rockfish biting for boats fishing kelp bed areas up and down the San Diego County coast. There have also been occasional showings of yellowtail at the upper end of La Jolla — and every once in a while, someone gets one to bite and catches a nice-sized yellowtail.
Capt. Kelvin Nettleton of La Jolla Fishing reported about a recent trip to the upper end of La Jolla. He said that the log-size barracuda were biting well while he was fishing along the edges of the kelp beds, but he said he saw no yellowtail activity.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reported excellent mixed-bag fishing for calico bass, sand bass and barracuda on the edges of the kelp beds at Del Mar, Solana Beach and Leucadia.
Similar to the reports from most areas up and down the coast, a lot of the bass fall short of the new 14-inch minimum size regulation and must be released — but there are some keepersize bass in the mix. Cacciola said their anglers are having lots of fun catching and releasing many of the 12- to 13-inch calicos, which would have been keeper-size fish in other seasons.
Cacciola has been pleased to see good numbers of log-size barracuda biting along the edges of the kelp beds, and the barries provide some nice variety to go along with the bass fishing. He reported that they still have lively 4- to 5-inch anchovies in their bait supply, and he said these make perfect baits for the fishing they are doing along the edges of the kelp beds.
There are still squid beds to be found, in spots ranging from Mission Bay to Leucadia. There’s a chance of catching a white seabass during the night and early morning daylight hours while fishing the spots where you locate squid.
The white seabass bite has been tapering off from the hot bite of a couple of weeks ago, but there are still some anglers who are putting in long hours and picking up an occasional good-sized fish.
Anglers have lots of options to choose from, in targeting what to fish for right now. It is a blessing to have so many good choices.