Fall Season Continues to Be Hot for Tuna, Dorado and Yellowtail

By: Bob Vanian

Winter will eventually win out over fall and put and end to the 2013 Southern California offshore fishing season. But for the time being, there are still warmwater summertime species lingering around in local offshore waters that are on the bite.

Anglers who are continuing to fish are still able to target areas where there is good fishing for a mix of yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, dorado and yellowtail. Those out looking for marlin are also still finding them.

One change is that the areas that are producing the good numbers of fish are not as widespread. As an example, the fishing for dorado, yellowtail and tuna in more northern offshore waters between the Mexican border and the Catalina Channel has turned rather scratchy.

The best fishing in waters within 45 miles or so of Point Loma is currently down at the Upper Hidden Bank and the 390 Bank — for boats fishing 35 to 45 miles, 175 to 210 degrees from Point Loma. There are a lot of empty kelp paddies in this 35- to 45-mile zone, but there are still some paddies that are producing good numbers of yellowtail and dorado, along with an occasional bluefin tuna or yellowfin tuna.

The best area for a chance at a tuna within 95 miles or so of Point Loma is at the tuna pens, which have been holding with their tow boats in an area around 48 miles, 171 degrees from Point Loma. The tuna pens do move around with their tow boats, and they need to be relocated each day.

The tuna pens have been producing bluefin tuna — and if you locate a kelp paddy in the region of the tuna pens, there is a good chance of finding some yellowtail and dorado biting around the kelp paddy.

The bluefin bite at the tuna pens can be erratic from day to day. There isn’t much of a pattern as to why it might be good fishing one day and scratchy fishing the next.

The bluefin biting at the pens have been mixed-sized fish from 15 to 80 pounds. The fishing around the tuna pens is being done by drifting with live baits, and it is good practice to try and locate a meter mark or spot of working birds to stop on when you begin a drift.

Private boater Ray Millman of Go the Distance reported about a recent trip to fish near the tuna pens, where they caught three bluefin tuna. He said they were “school-size fish,” which would put them in the 15- to 18-pound range. Millman also reported three hookups on larger-sized bluefin that were lost.

On the way home to Mission Bay, Millman found a kelp paddy on the outside edge of the Upper Finger Bank that produced limits of firecracker-size yellowtail. He described the yellowtail as being larger than a lot of the yellowtail they have been catching under the kelp paddies on recent trips. That good yellowtail paddy was located 30 miles, 161 degrees from Point Loma.

Private boater Jim Covell of Sea Bear fished a recent trip to the tuna pens and reported having no luck on bluefin at the pens. Covell did some kelp paddy hopping on the way home, and found some good action on two kelp paddies in the area of the Upper Hidden Bank.

The paddies produced a bluefin tuna, limits of dorado and enough yellowtail to fill out their limits. The productive kelp paddies were found at 31 miles and at 38 miles, on a 180 degree heading from Point Loma.

Private boater Tony Delmonte of Black and Blue reported catching a 45-pound bluefin tuna on a recent trip to the tuna pens. They patiently stayed and fished the pens, even though it was slow.

Delmonte’s patience eventually paid off as they picked up the 45-pound bluefin during the early afternoon hours. Delmonte also reported finding a good yellowtail bite under a kelp paddy on the way home while at the lower end of the Upper Hidden Bank — 41 miles, 180 degrees from Point Loma.

The other zone that is producing good fishing is between 95 and 110 miles from Point Loma, for boats fishing the offshore waters outside of Punta Colnett. There has been excellent fishing down this way for a mix of yellowfin tuna, dorado and yellowtail.

Capt. Scott Meisel of Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing fished a recent 1.5-day trip down this way, and reported catching more than 300 mixed fish — including 117 yellowfin tuna, 31 dorado and 156 yellowtail. Meisel said they had action throughout much of the day, with stops coming from kelp paddies, blind yellowfin tuna jig strikes and yellowfin caught with porpoise schools.

Capt. Scott McDaniels of Sea Adventure 80 out of H&M Landing also fished a recent three-day trip to the offshore waters outside of Punta Colnett and posted a catch of 24 dorado, 260 yellowtail, 10 skipjack and 157 yellowfin tuna.

I spoke with McDaniels on the first day of the trip, and he was reporting that most of their yellowfin tuna were in the 12- to 15-pound range. The water temperature was reported to be between 69 and 70 degrees.

The area of fish outside of Punta Colnett has been widespread, and there has been good fishing going on in a zone that ranges from 95 to 115 miles, 164 to 178 degrees from Point Loma.

Boats fishing around Los Coronados islands have been finding good numbers of yellowtail biting. The yellows have been mixed-size fish running from 8 to 30 pounds.

Much of the fishing has been done by boaters sitting on the anchor — and the Rockpile has been the best area the past few days. Other productive spots have included the South Kelp Ridge, the Ribbon Kelp, the north end of South Island, the Middle Grounds and Pukey Point at North Island.

Anglers have had a problem fishing around Los Coronados islands in recent days, because has Mexican authorities have stepped up enforcement of the FMM or FM3 Immigration Form (commonly referred to as a “Mexican visa”) requirement.

Mexican authorities have been patrolling the area and boarding private boats and sportboats for inspection. They have been asking for FMM or FM3 documents and a passport for each person aboard. They also wanted to see the boat’s registration paperwork.

A private boater also reported being asked for a ship’s radio station license and a personal radio operator’s license for his VHF radio. I received a report that one sportboat was asked for a boat inspection permit that is issued out of Ensenada.

Most people did not have the required FMM or FM3 Immigration Forms aboard and were told to leave Mexican waters. One of the frustrations about the FMM or FM3 Immigration Form requirement is that it has been very inconvenient for San Diego anglers to go through the required process of obtaining this paperwork in Ensenada or Tijuana.

Here’s a bit of good news: There is supposed to be a way to obtain an FMM Immigration Form online that will be introduced in the near future.

Some skippers are staying away from the Coronados right now. I have not heard news of any boardings occurring over the past two days, but I doubt that this means anything in the overall picture.

I am not qualified to give a legal opinion about matters of international law, but I can tell you that I use a cautious and conservative approach in my personal decision-making about these types of issues.

Marlin fishing has been producing some scattered action for boats fishing around and about the 181 Spot, 138 Spot, 182 Spot, 178 Spot and the upper end of the 9-Mile Bank. There are a few fish being seen in these areas almost every day — and every once in a while, someone catches one.

Fred Larson of Squared Away reported catching and releasing a marlin while on a recent trip to the Ridge. Art Ponce was at the helm, and Larson hooked the fish on a live mackerel. They were baiting a sleeper that was spotted while fishing 3 miles east of the 138 Spot.

San Diego area coastal fishing is producing a few calico bass and some good numbers of rockfish. There is also a chance at a nice-sized yellowtail, for those fishing with live squid at a squid bed area that is a mile or so to the west of Mission Bay.

Private boater Capt. Bob Woodard of Christina Lynn fished this squid area and reported catching a 28.5-pound yellowtail. Woodard said it was an early morning bite on the yellows in this zone.

Woodard and his wife, Pat, had fished the same area the day before, and they had lost a large yellowtail and what was thought to be a large white seabass. Live squid is the key bait for a chance at a yellowtail or white seabass while fishing this zone.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reported that they have been doing well on an assortment of rockfish while fishing hard-bottom areas outside of the stretch between the lower boundary of the MLPA closure zone at Cardiff and Solana Beach. A good depth range has been in 200 feet of water.

Cacciola also reported an occasional jumbo sand bass in their catch, and he said that their rockfish catch has primarily been made up of a mix of reds, salmon grouper, copper rockfish and chuckleheads.

Strips of fresh frozen squid have been working well for bait. Their most recent trip saw a catch of a 6-pound sand bass and about seven per angler on the quality-sized rockfish.

The fall season can provide some days of excellent weather and excellent fishing. I hope you do not make the mistake of putting away your fishing gear too soon.

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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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