By: Bob Vanian
San Diego area offshore fishing continues to provide good overall action on a mix of bluefin tuna, yellowtail and dorado — with the marlin action beginning to perk up a bit as well.
A few yellowfin tuna have been caught by boats fishing within 1.5-day range of Point Loma. Anglers hope these are the first of many more yellowfin to highlight the late summer and fall fishing season.
Recent days have seen some windy weather stir up the water and drop the water temperatures in some offshore areas. These somewhat erratic water conditions caused a drop in the bluefin tuna counts.
Over the past few days, better weather has allowed the water to stabilize. The result is that the bluefin fishing has already started to rally.
The prime water temperatures have been running from 67 to 68 degrees. When the wind was blowing, temperatures had dropped to the 61- to 66-degree range.
One of the best areas for offshore fishing has been the region around and below the 295 Bank, Double 220 Bank and lower part of the 1010 Trench — for boats working 65 to 80 miles, 175 to 190 degrees from Point Loma.
Another productive zone ranges from outside of Punta Colnett to the waters outside of San Martin island — between 90 and 140 miles, 157 to 170 degrees from Point Loma. A few yellowfin tuna have been found here.
Another productive bluefin area was located around the 483/500 Bank by anglers working between 80 and 85 miles, 196 to 202 degrees from Point Loma.
Within 45 miles of Point Loma, boats working offshore have been scratching out a few yellowtail, dorado and bluefin tuna around the 371 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank and the 390 Bank. However, the overall fishing in these areas has been scratchy.
A few yellowtail have also been found biting under kelp paddies between the upper end of the 9-Mile Bank and the 182 Spot.
Boats fishing offshore waters toward Catalina and San Clemente Island have found kelp paddies around the 181 Spot, 209 Spot, 277 Spot, 267 Spot and 289 Spot holding mostly bait. The overall bite has been scratchy in these areas — but every once in a while, someone finds a kelp paddy that produces a yellowtail or two, and it may even hold a few dorado.
Most of the bluefin tuna have been ranging in size from 15 to 40 pounds, with occasional larger fish to 75 pounds also being reported. Most of the yellowtail have been in the 5- to 10-pound class, with a fair number of larger fish to 30 pounds in the mix.
Most of the dorado have been in the 8- to 12-pound range, with some bigger dorado to 30 pounds around, as well. Most of the action originates from stopping on kelp paddies and meter marks that are found with scanning sonar, but there are also occasional stops reported from trolling strikes.
Capt. Scott Meisel of Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing reported that on his most recent 1.5-day trip, the 37 anglers aboard caught 185 yellowtail (limits) and three dorado. Meisel reported having the wide-open kelp paddy action while fishing below and outside of Punta Colnett, 110 to 120 miles from Point Loma. The trip featured a spectacular bite from a kelp paddy that produced more than 100 yellowtail.
Make-A-Wish Tourney Brings Big Fish, Big Success
The Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge, Southern California’s premier tuna tournament, was held Aug. 23-25, with numerous anglers and boats participating. The tournament was a huge success, raising $175,000 for the San Diego Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Bluefin tuna played hard to get for a lot of boats fishing in the tournament, but there were some nice bluefin caught — along with some dorado and yellowtail, and a marlin that was released.
The first-place winning boat was Reel Eze, with 97.6 points; followed by Endeavour, with 54.9 points; and Green Bee in third place, with 46.2 points.
The Richard Thomas Memorial Grand Prize for the biggest fish in the tournament went to Brian Burke, who was fishing aboard Reel Eze and caught a 43.6-pound bluefin tuna.
The big fish in the Large Boat Division was a 39.2-pound bluefin tuna caught by Maggie Osburn aboard Endeavour. The big fish in the Small Boat Division was a released marlin aboard Master Baiter that was caught by Mike Kaiser and was good for 25 points.
The biggest fish caught by a Junior Angler in the 11 Years Old and Younger Division was an 11.2-pound dorado caught by Tianna Salerno while fishing aboard Janet Lou. The biggest fish by a Junior Angler in the 12 to 15 Years Old Division was a 6.4-pound yellowtail caught by Aiden McGeehan while fishing aboard Finology.
In the Charter Boat Division, the six-pack charter yacht Josie Lynn from Point Loma Sportfishing had anglers that won first and second place awards. In first place was Patrick Lyden, with a 17.8 pound bluefin tuna; and in second place was James Villalobos, with a 28.6-pound dorado.
Private boater Capt. Tony Souza of Green Bee reported that angler Mario Souza caught a 36-pound bluefin tuna while fishing in the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge. The bluefin was good for second place in the big fish award for anglers fishing in the Large Boat Division and helped Green Bee take third place in the Large Boat Division.
Souza said the fish was a jig fish that was caught while fishing between the 1067 Trench and the Dumping Grounds — 76 miles, 201 degrees from Point Loma.
Private boater Jim Covell of Sea Bear reported a catch of one bluefin tuna, one dorado and at least a dozen yellowtail in the Make-A-Wish tourney. Most of the fish came from a kelp paddy that Covell found below the 213 Bank — 65 miles, 200 degrees from Point Loma.
The bluefin was caught by Grant Larson and weighed 16.8 pounds. Larson’s tuna was good for a seventh place finish in the Large Boat Division’s big fish standings.
Private boater Team New Dippy fished in the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge and reported that most of their bait died while traveling in rough weather, heading down to the area below the 295 Bank. They found some bluefin in an area where they watched the sportboat Apollo catch an estimated 60-pound bluefin tuna — but with their small bait supply, they did not have enough to chum up the meter marks they were getting. This activity occurred 76 miles, 178 degrees from Point Loma — and this was the same area where they caught three kelp paddy yellowtail.
Private boater Capt. Bob Woodard of Christina Lynn fished the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge with private boater Tom Miller, aboard Miller’s boat Sea Life. Woodard reported they went below the 295 Bank, 85 miles from Point Loma. They found good numbers of yellowtail biting under the kelp paddies and caught lots of yellowtail, but they could not find any bluefin tuna.
Private boater Capt. Ron Bowers of Salt Fever fished a recent two-day trip to the offshore waters between Punta Colnett and San Martin Island, catching seven bluefin tuna and 29 yellowtail. Most of the fish were caught from a kelp paddy located 137 miles, 162 degrees from Point Loma.
All their bluefin tuna came from that one good kelp paddy — and the bluefin were in the 18- to 20-pound range. Their yellowtail were mostly 5- to 10-pound fish, but Bowers also reported larger yellowtail in the mix that went to 20 pounds.
Los Coronados islands have been producing some nice-size yellowtail, but the overall bite has been hit or miss. As this report was being prepared, skippers out on three-quarter-day trips were reporting improved yellowtail fishing at the Coronados, so the bite has taken a turn for the better.
H&M Landing reported that Malihini had 15 yellowtail aboard at mid-day Aug. 26, for 14 anglers. Point Loma Sportfishing had a late morning update from Mission Belle saying they had more than 20 yellowtail on board that day, and had other hookups going.
Most of the yellowtail being caught at Los Coronados have been large fish in the 25- to 30-pound class. The best yellowtail bite areas have been at the Middle Grounds and at North Island.
The best areas of North Island have been at Pukey Point and along the lee side of the island. Slow-trolled sardines have been the best bet for private boaters, with the sportboats getting the majority of their action while drifting on meter marks found with scanning sonar.
Private boater Bob James of Lynn Marie fished Los Coronados on a recent trip while on his way to the offshore marlin fishing grounds. He said they hooked a few yellowtail while fishing sardines at Pukey Point, but said that all their fish were stolen by aggressive seals. James reported seeing Malihini fishing the same area, and they had an estimated 20 seals in their chum line.
Marlin fishing has perked up a bit up around Catalina and San Clemente Island, with the areas of the 209 Spot, the 277 Spot and the 289 Spot, and an area 2 to 6 miles inside of the eastern part of San Clemente Island providing the bulk of the action.
At press time, the Church Mouse Marlin Tournament had just begun at Catalina — and there had already been five marlin caught and released by the 73 boats fishing in the tournament, with fishing time still left in the day. One of the released fish was a bait fish. and the other four were jig fish.
The 289 Spot inside of Catalina Island was the best area for marlin on the first day of the tournament, with some action also reported around the 277 Spot off the East End of Catalina. Boats reporting releases included Chaser, Southern Speed, Cheers, Kismet and Dialed In.
San Diego County coastal fishing is still producing calico bass in the kelp beds — but more of the fishing effort is being directed toward fishing for rockfish, as the calico bass bite has been inconsistent. There remain squid available to catch for bait while fishing off Pacific Beach, below the Marine Life Protection Act-mandated closure area at the lower end of La Jolla.
The morning hours have seen some occasional flurries of yellowtail action in the squid area off Pacific Beach, and there have also been some yellowtail scratched out by boats fishing the kelp bed areas at the upper end of La Jolla.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reported catching some calico bass at the kelp beds at Solana Beach, Leucadia and Carlsbad. However, the calico bass catches have been dropping to the point where he has been fishing for rockfish on some of his recent trips.
Cacciola said the calico bass fishing got tough when they stopped having anchovies for bait in their bait supply. Cacciola reported the recent bait supply has been made up of mostly large sardines and said the calico bass fishing is very difficult with these large live baits.
What has been working for the calico bass, in the absence of the anchovies, is the Berkley Gulp Jerk Shad baits, fished with a 3/8-ounce dart head. They have also hooked an occasional yellowtail while fishing along the edges of the kelp beds for calico bass — and they recently caught an 18-pound yellowtail and had an angler get spooled by a big yellowtail.
Cacciola reported finding his best fishing for rockfish along hard-bottom spots outside of Leucadia. He suggested fishing strips of big sardines or strips of fresh-frozen squid for the rockfish.
There is still plenty of good fishing left in this summer and fall season. Make sure you do not let the season pass you by without enjoying the fun.
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 over the phone at (619) 226-8218. He always welcomes your fish reports at that same phone number, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.