Two-month closure of rockfish/groundfish fishery begins Jan. 1

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — Local saltwater anglers have benefitted from large numbers of rockfish and groundfish catches in recent months. However, catches of the species are expected to go dry for the first few weeks of 2017 as the rockfish/groundfish fishery will be shut down for two months beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

The annual two-month closure applies to all anglers fishing on the United States’ side of the Mexico border. During the rockfish/groundfish closure, anglers will either have to go into Mexican waters to fish for rockfish or, if they are fishing on the United States’ side of the Mexico border, target other species open to fishing.

Somewhat of an offset for anglers fishing on the United States’ side of the Mexico border: the currently closed sculpin season “is expected to reopen on Jan. 1, 2017.”

Of course, uncertainty surrounds fishing around Los Coronado Islands and some other areas after the Mexican government designated areas off the Baja coast as biosphere zones of conservation. It remains unclear as to what this means to sportfishing anglers wishing to fish in these biosphere areas, which includes Los Coronado Islands.

In a recent telephone conversation with the Mexico Department of Fisheries Conapesca office in San Diego, they had not yet heard from the Mexican government as to what effect, if any, the biosphere declaration means to sportfishing anglers. Until more is known, anglers who choose to fish around Los Coronado Islands do so at their own risk.

Anglers still dropped lines around Los Coronado Islands despite the government’s declaration, and they found quality bites. Recent fishing reports indicated good numbers of assorted rockfish biting and an occasional bonus lingcod, bonito or yellowtail.

Most of the focus has been on the bottom fishing for the rockfish and lingcod. The two best areas have been the hard bottom to the northwest of North Island and along the outer ridges ranging from outside of South Island on down to just beyond of the South Kelp area below South Island. A good depth range has been fishing in 30 to 45 fathoms of water.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for rockfish, sand bass, calico bass and sculpin.

Ideal areas for bass, rockfish and sculpin bites are hard bottom and structure areas at Box Canyon, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, Carlsbad, Leucadia, Solana Beach, Del Mar, upper end of La Jolla, Jetty Kelp in front of Mission Bay, Point Loma College, Green Tank at Point Loma, Point Loma Pipeline, southeast and northwest of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma and the Imperial Beach Pipeline.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing reported some of his half-day charters found steady fishing on a mixture of bottom fish such as rockfish, sheephead, sculpin, calico bass and sand bass. He said most of their recent catches of calico bass, sand bass and sheephead have been made up of short-sized fish, which have had to be released. The sculpin they caught have been mostly nice-sized fish but were released as the species is out of season until Jan. 1, 2017.

Cacciola added the deeper hard bottom areas outside of Carlsbad and Leucadia have been producing most of their rockfish with shallower hard bottom areas located a short way outside of the kelp beds in those same areas producing most of their sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and sheephead. Recent water temperatures have been running 58 to 59 degrees and the water has been an off-color green. Cacciola was pleasantly surprised to have caught two triggerfish on a recent trip while fishing in the cold 58 to 59 degree water.

There has been a bit of surface fishing activity found by boats fishing coastal areas. The area of Northwest at the upper end of La Jolla and the Imperial Beach Pipeline provided a chance at a yellowtail catch. The showings of yellowtail have been inconsistent, but it might pay off to be prepared so be on the lookout. Yellowtail were located by finding spots of working birds, sonar marks or meter marks. A private boater fishing La Jolla, who was at the right spot at the right time, hooked three nice-sized yellowtail with live mackerel and Flat Fall jigs, according to a report.

The 2016 fishing season is coming to a close. It will be interesting to see what 2017 has in store for Southern California anglers. Catching a big bluefin at the Tanner Bank would be a great way to kick off 2017! 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.

(Excel Sportfishing photo)

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