Bottomfishing Still Rules, But Anglers See More Signs of Surface Fish

By: Bob Vanian

It is still very early in the year to be expecting much in the way of surface fishing action, but San Diego area anglers are starting to see some glimpses of what may be ahead, in the way of springtime surface fishing.

There have been a few yellowtail biting to the south, along the Mexican coast at Isla Todos Santos and Punta Colnett, during much of winter fishing season. But we are now starting to see some increased signs of yellowtail activity at spots much closer to San Diego — such as at Los Coronados islands and La Jolla.

Los Coronados have yet to produce a yellowtail for any of the sportboats out fishing the area. But we recently received that region’s first report of a spot of breaking yellowtail — north of North Island. It is encouraging to know that yellows are starting to move into the area.

La Jolla anglers have seen periodic showings of yellowtail during the winter season. And, every once in a while, someone got a yellowtail to bite for them.

This past week, both yellowtail and white seabass were caught at the upper end of La Jolla. No big numbers of either species are reported to be biting yet, but anglers are hopeful that we are seeing the early signs of what could develop into a very good springtime run of seabass and yellowtail at La Jolla.

While anglers wait for better numbers of surface fish to start biting, there are plenty of other species out there to keep anglers busy.

Those fishing spots up and down the San Diego County coast are catching good numbers of a mixed bag of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and rockfish. Some good-sized halibut have also been biting along the coast — and the halibut have often highlighted catches coming from coastal waters.

The Imperial Beach area has been one of the best for halibut fishing. There have been halibut biting off Imperial Beach that have gone up above the 25-pound mark. The best bet has been to drift-fish in the region of the Imperial Beach Pier, in 30 to 60 feet of water.

Private boater and former Sportfishing Association of California president Capt. Bob Fletcher of Fletch took out his new 25-foot Davis Bahia and went fishing with his sons Rob and Nick, and Rob’s friend Chris. Fletcher reported a fun day of fishing, and he said their catch was highlighted by a 9-pound halibut.

They also caught and released a short-size halibut and caught six big sand bass, several big brown rockfish and some sculpin. They fished from 8 a.m. until noon, and they found their best action while fishing a short distance above the Imperial Beach Pier, in 50 feet of water.

Boats fishing out of San Diego Bay are also catching some good numbers of rockfish while fishing hard-bottom areas outside the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma. Other productive rockfish areas have included the Point Loma Pipeline and the hard-bottom area outside of the Green Tank at Point Loma.

Boats fishing the local coast out of Mission Bay have been finding bass, sculpin and rockfish at the Jetty Kelp area outside of Mission Bay, and at the hard-bottom spots outside of the middle and the upper end of La Jolla. There have also been a few nice-sized halibut biting for boats fishing the sandy-bottom areas outside of Mission Beach.

Some squid has been available to catch for bait at night at La Jolla, and the two best areas to find them have been just below the MPA fishing closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, as well as just outside of the MPA closure zone at the upper end of La Jolla.

Occasional white seabass and yellowtail have been biting at the upper end of La Jolla. A recent report was of both a yellowtail and a white seabass being caught by a boat that was fishing at night.

Boats fishing the local coast out of Oceanside have been doing well on rockfish at hard-bottom areas outside of Box Canyon, in the 40- to 55-fathom depths. Another productive rockfish zone in North San Diego County has been at hard-bottom areas outside of the stretch between Cardiff and Encinitas, found out on the 28- to 40-fathom depths.

The bass, sculpin and halibut in the Oceanside region have been biting for boats working reef and structure spots, such as the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines and the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor. Look for halibut while fishing the sandy-bottom areas around these structure and reef areas.

The fishing at Los Coronados has been very good for rockfish, and some limit catches have been reported that include some nice-size reds and salmon grouper. The best areas for rockfish have been at the lower end of the 9-Mile Bank in Mexico waters, as well as along the outer ridges — ranging from the area outside South Island down to the area outside the Rockpile.

Reports from the Punta Colnett region have indicated some very good bottomfishing there. Boats fishing down this way have regularly been reporting limit catches of an assortment of rockfish — usually highlighted by large reds and lingcod.

Capt. Jody Morgan of Voyager, out of Seaforth Sportfishing, has been fishing the Punta Colnett region on 1.5-day trips during the winter season — and Morgan reported that in addition to the excellent bottomfishing, they see yellowtail on a lot of their trips. He says that every once in a while someone fishing the area gets the yellowtail to bite and catches a few. The yellowtail have bit best on yo-yoed iron and have been good-sized fish that have been up in the 20-pound class.

The spring surface bite is showing some signs of life and will, hopefully, soon be coming on strong. In the meantime, there are plenty of other great-eating bottomfish that are biting, to provide some fun fishing. Keep on fishing, and I hope to see you out on the water.

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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