Rockfish season opens March 1

Southern California anglers had to travel into Mexican waters to fish for rockfish/groundfish since the annual two-month closure went into effect on New Year’s Day. The end of this year’s closure is March 1. When the closure comes to an end and the season reopens Southern California anglers will once again be able to fish for rockfish/groundfish on the United States side of the Mexico Border.

Anglers heading into Mexican waters to target rockfish continue to do well. Local half-day trips out of San Diego Bay to fish the waters around Los Coronado Islands have been catching some good numbers of rockfish and three-quarter-day trips targeting yellowtail in the region of Los Coronado Islands and the Finger Bank have been picking up some good numbers of rockfish to compliment catches of yellowtail. More distant 1.5-day trips to fish the waters outside of Punta Colnett have been finding excellent fishing with a mix of yellowtail and assorted rockfish making up the catch.

The hard bottom to the north and to the northwest of North Island at Los Coronado Islands has been a productive rockfish zone while fishing in 40 to 50 fathoms of water and another productive nearby rockfish area has been at the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank while fishing on the Mexico side of the border. Premier out of H&M Landing fished for rockfish in these areas on morning half-day trips and, on its most recent trip, had 17 anglers return with 89 rockfish.

Three-quarter-day trips fishing the region of Los Coronado Islands have been first and foremost targeting yellowtail but have also been picking up some rockfish incidental to drifting around some of the yellowtail meter marks and sonar marks. Most of the recent fishing efforts for the yellowtail were below Los Coronado Islands at the Finger Bank. The Finger Bank has been a productive area for both yellowtail and rockfish.

Yellowtail at the Finger Bank are good sized fish, running from 15 to 20 pounds. The yellows were caught by drifting over sonar marks or meter marks and fishing with yo-yoed iron or with a dropper loop rig that is baited with a live sardine or a live mackerel. The yellowtail are usually found with the electronics and they have been holding about 20 fathoms below the surface near spots of working birds that are working areas of anchovies or red crabs. The yo-yoed iron worked best for the yellowtail and good jig choices have been Salas 6X Jrs, Sumo Jrs, Salas 7X heavy and Tady 4/0 jigs in scrambled egg, blue mackerel or green mackerel colors.

Punta Colnett is where the best of the yellowtail action is being found and is also producing very good fishing for an assortment of rockfish that include quality sized reds, whitefish and lingcod. Sportboats fishing out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay have usually been running 1.5-day trips to Punta Colnett most often fishing on Saturdays.

Anglers looking for yellowtail along the San Diego County coast continue to find a few nice sized yellowtail biting at La Jolla. The La Jolla area has also provided a chance at catching a nice sized white seabass. The ridge area outside of Del Mar is another area producing an occasional flurry of white seabass action. The bite on these species continues to be scratchy most days but when someone connects the result is usually a quality sized 20- to 30-pound white seabass or yellowtail. 

The water at La Jolla has been off color in recent days and anglers are thinking the yellowtail bite will improve in a hurry once the water conditions clean up and stabilize. The best areas for a chance at a yellowtail have been while fishing the upper end of La Jolla outside of the MLPA closure zone located outside of the Cove and also while fishing further outside of the upper end of La Jolla at the kelp stringer hard bottom area known as Northwest. A good depth range for the yellowtail has been in 15 to 30 fathoms of water.

Live squid would be great bait for the yellowtail and white seabass but it has been hard to catch. Some anglers have been trying the high grade of frozen squid in the absence of live squid. Live mackerel that is fished deep on a dropper loop rig has been working for both white seabass and yellowtail and yo-yoed iron also continues to produce an occasional yellowtail.

On the offshore fishing front I received a recent report from a very reliable source there were three sleeper marlin baited inside of San Clemente Island. Two were baited a short way above the Mackerel Bank and the other was seen a short way below the 289 Spot. The same skipper reporting about the marlin also reported having a report about a swordfish being seen at the Avalon Bank.

The first day of spring is not far away and we are already experiencing spring like weather and spring like 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 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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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