Early Season Conditions Look Promising

By: Bob Vanian

The 2012 fishing season is still in its infancy. But as anglers look to what might be ahead in the way of springtime surface fishing, the indicators are very encouraging.

A recent storm front brought severe winds and a good amount of rain. The water temperatures in the San Diego region did cool into the middle-to-upper 50s, as an immediate result of the storm. One might expect to find cold and murky water out on the fishing grounds, but after the storm passed through, anglers found good-looking clean water that was loaded with bait.

Capt. Jim Hughes of Cortez out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been aboard Royal Polaris out of Fisherman’s Landing on some of their recent long-range trips. Hughes said he is very encouraged by some of the conditions he is seeing while traveling outside of the Baja California coast — which also has cool water, but it is very clean and full of bait. He said he likes what he is seeing, as it relates to the prospects for our spring and upcoming summer fishing season out of San Diego and Mission Bay.

Capt. Tim Green of Premier out of H&M Landing has been fishing the local coast outside of Point Loma and Imperial Beach on his recent half-day trips and reports the same conditions — and things are looking better than what he has seen in quite a few years.

With the current NOAA projection that the cold-water La Niña condition of the past few years is coming to an end, there is good reason to be optimistic about warmer water and the prospects for the upcoming fishing season.

There has been a bit of activity to report on the springtime surface fishing front, with the first barracuda activity of the season reported by boats fishing at Los Coronados islands and along the coast outside of Imperial Beach.

A private boater reported catching a few barracuda while drifting for halibut in the lee of South Island, and there were a couple of spots of barracuda found under working birds outside of Imperial Beach. It may take a little warming of the water to get these fish to biting on a consistent basis, but it is good to know that some surface fish are starting to get active in local waters.

While waiting for surface fish to start biting on a consistent basis, San Diego area anglers have been keeping busy catching rockfish, bass, sculpin and halibut. Large halibut have been grabbing most of the headlines, and the Imperial Beach region has been one of the best locations for halibut — with the area outside the Imperial Beach Pier and outside the Hotel del Coronado producing some large halibut to 40-plus pounds.

In recent days, the numbers of halibut being caught have been off from what they were a couple of weeks ago, but there are still some nice big fish biting. Most of the halibut action has been coming in 20 to 60 feet of water, and it has been a good idea to try drifting cobblestone-bottom areas and sandy-bottom areas that are adjacent to structure.

Capt. Ron Baker of Point Loma out of Point Loma Sportfishing has been spending some time fishing for halibut each day on his three-quarter-day trips, and he reported a catch that included two halibut to 22 pounds on his most recent run.

Baker said he spent the morning fishing for rockfish outside Point Loma before heading to the halibut grounds below Point Loma. His 20 anglers caught four cabezon, three sand bass, 62 brown rockfish, 47 rockfish and two halibut. Baker expects the halibut fishing to get even better, once the water gets a few degrees warmer.

Private boater Pete Gray of the “Let’s Talk Hookup” radio show passed along a report from a private boater friend who fished a recent trip off Imperial Beach. Gray said that his friend had a successful day of fishing and put together a catch that included a 24-pound halibut.

Another zone that has been producing some good-sized halibut has been the sandy-bottom area outside of Mission Beach and the sandy-bottom area below the Marine Protected Area fishing closure zone off Pacific Beach. A good depth range for drifting in these areas has been in 35 to 60 feet of water.

Farther up the coast, Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reported green water conditions right along the coast and a tremendous amount of plankton in the region. A couple of the better areas for halibut in the Oceanside region have been on the sandy-bottom area next to the structure of the artificial reefs in front of Oceanside Harbor, as well as the sandy bottom adjacent to the Anderson and Buccaneer pipelines.

Some productive areas for rockfish along the San Diego area coast have included the area outside of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, at the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, at hard-bottom spots in 40- to 50-fathom depths outside of the MPA closure areas at the lower end of La Jolla, and outside of Cardiff, Leucadia and Box Canyon.

Capt. Mike Hadfield of the six-pack charter yacht Josie Lynn with Point Loma Sportfishing reported that on a recent half-day trip, his six anglers caught seven sand bass, seven rockfish, two calico bass and lots of mackerel, which were released. Hadfield reported finding their fish while working hard-bottom areas in the region of the Whistler Buoy and Buoy #3 at Point Loma.

The fishing at Los Coronados islands continues to produce good numbers of assorted rockfish. The catches from this area have most often been highlighted by good-sized reds and salmon grouper, along with the occasional lingcod. The better areas around the islands continue to be at the lower end of the 9-Mile Bank in Mexican waters, as well as along the outer ridges outside of the stretch between South Island and the Rockpile.

The surface fishing season is on its way — but until the surface fishing gets going, it would be a mistake to overlook the fun bottomfishing for bass, sculpin, halibut and rockfish. 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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