SAN DIEGO — Early February is not the time of year one generally associates with bluefin tuna fishing out of San Diego, but the past few years of El Niño conditions showed us anything can happen on the ocean fishing front at unusual times of the year.
Gabe Castaneda reeled in 2017’s first bluefin tuna Feb. 4 while fishing aboard Eclipse out of Seaforth Sportfishing. The bluefin was a 15-pound class fish and was caught on a yo-yoed iron while on a 1.5-day trip targeting yellowtail and rockfish a short way below Punta Colnett.
There were additional reports of bluefin seen incidentally fishing for yellowtail in the Punta Colnett region that same day. The fish count on Eclipse was 25 anglers on a 1.5-day trip catching one bluefin tuna, four reds, six whitefish, nine bonito, 32 rockfish and 71 yellowtail.
The Punta Colnett region provided the best fishing in recent weeks, yielding bluefin tuna and a mix of yellowtail, reds, lingcod, bonito, barracuda and assorted rockfish.
The yellowtail fishing has been excellent at times on quality-sized fish running from 12 to 25 pounds. Most of the yellowtail are being caught on yo-yoed iron. Productive color jigs have been blue and white, scrambled egg. Red crab like red colors and dorado. Salas 6X and 7X heavy jigs and the Tady 4/0 heavy jig have been good choices for the yellowtail. Live mackerel and live sardines have been working best for lingcod and live sardines. Strips of small rockfish fillets have been good baits for the reds and assorted rockfish.
Closer to San Diego, there have been a few boats fishing at Los Coronado Islands that have been catching good numbers of rockfish along with an occasional bonus lingcod. The past couple of months have also seen an occasional yellowtail or bonito found biting along the weather side of North Island. However there has not been much in the way of surface fishing activity at Los Coronado Islands, since a series of storm systems moved through the area in the middle of January.
Point Loma out of Point Loma Sportfishing fished a recent three-quarter-day trip to the Coronados and found an assortment of bottom species biting. The 17 anglers caught two sheephead, two sculpin, 32 whitefish and 71 rockfish.
Premier out of H&M Landing has been fishing Mexican waters on weekday morning half-day trips. Its most recent trip with seven anglers caught one lingcod and 29 rockfish.
Anglers need to keep in mind the seasonal 2-month rockfish/groundfish closure remains in effect in Southern California waters until March 1.
While the rockfish/groundfish closure has been in effect, anglers fishing on the United States side of the Mexico border targeted species open to fishing such as sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, halibut, white seabass and yellowtail. The sand bass, calico bass and sculpin have produced most of the action and there have also been a few halibut biting along with an occasional yellowtail. White seabass have been hard to find, but every once in a while someone also connects with a legal sized white seabass.
The La Jolla region has provided the best chance at locating a yellowtail while fishing off the stretch of coast between Pacific Beach and the upper end of La Jolla. The areas within this stretch where yellowtail activity was reported were Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach and below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla while fishing in 15 to 18 fathoms of water. Also worth a look has been the area outside of the middle part of La Jolla in 15 to 20 fathoms of water while fishing a short way above the same MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla. Some yellowtail activity was found while fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla in 15 to 20 fathoms of water.
Sardines, mackerel, surface iron and yo-yo iron have been working for yellowtail. The fish have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks and spots of working birds.
New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been finding occasional yellowtail action. A recent trip had seven anglers on a morning half-day trip catch one yellowtail, one sculpin and one Spanish jack.
Hard bottom and structure spots have been best for those targeting sand bass, calico bass and sculpin. Sandy bottom areas adjacent to the hard bottom and structure spots can be good places to try to catch a halibut.
Productive areas for the bass and sculpin in San Diego County include Box Canyon, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, Carlsbad, Leucadia, the upper end of La Jolla, the Jetty Kelp in front of Mission Bay, the Green Tank at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma and the Imperial Beach Pipeline.
The 2017 Southern California ocean fishing season is in its second month. Early reports, of bluefin tuna and yellowtail, have given anglers a reason to be optimistic about this year’s saltwater fishing season.
Hope you get a chance to get out on the water and do some fishing sometime soon. Keep on fishing and see you out on the water!
Bob Vanian is the voice, writer and researcher of the San Diego-based internet fish report service called 976-Bite, which can be found at 976bite.com. Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service over the telephone at 619-226-8218. He always welcomes your fish reports at that same phone number or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Eclipse Sportfishing photo)