By: Bob Vanian
October is considered by many to offer some of the best offshore fishing opportunities of the year for Southern California offshore anglers. In recent seasons, October has been a disappointment — but the good news is that things have improved dramatically this year.
Fishing was off to a rip-roaring start early this month, providing outstanding offshore angling opportunities for yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, albacore, dorado, yellowtail and skipjack.
Currently, the best areas for a mix of all the species mentioned within one-day range of Point Loma include the top of the 1010 Trench and the inside edges of the 213 Bank — 58 to 63 miles, 196 to 198 degrees from Point Loma.
Another productive area that is producing mostly yellowfin tuna, dorado and yellowtail is below the 295 Bank — 80 to 90 miles, 175 to 185 degrees from Point Loma.
One more productive zone for yellowtail and dorado that has also been producing a few yellowfin tuna and an occasional albacore is in the region of the Lower Hidden Bank, for boats working from 45 to 50 miles 175 to 185 degrees from Point Loma.
Boats fishing offshore waters within 45 miles of Point Loma are picking up lots of yellowtail, a few dorado and an occasional yellowfin or bluefin tuna while fishing offshore banks, such as the Upper Hidden Bank, the 425 Bank, the 371 Bank and the Kidney Bank. North of the Mexican border, boats are finding good numbers of yellowtail and a few dorado under kelp paddies found around the 182 Spot, with kelp paddies around the 181 Spot and 209 Spot also producing an occasional dorado and some pretty good numbers of yellowtail.
Yellowfin tuna have been mostly in the 12- to 18-pound range, with occasional bigger fish to 40 pounds in the mix. Albacore continue to be in the 20- to 45-pound range. Bluefin tuna have been mixed in size, with most falling in the 20- to 50-pound range.
The majority of the yellowtail catches have been in the 3- to 8-pound range, with occasional bigger fish reported to 15 pounds. A lot of anglers have been releasing the smaller yellowtail, and they should be applauded for doing so.
Dorado catches have ranged from 8 to 25 pounds, with a good percentage being quality-size 12- to 18-pound fish.
Some recent catch reports start with Capt. Scott Meisel of Condor, out of Fisherman’s Landing, who fished a recent 1.5-day trip to the 1010 Trench and the 1067 Trench. He reported a fish count of 37 anglers catching 185 yellowfin tuna (limits), 89 yellowtail, 25 dorado and 10 bluefin tuna. Meisel reported that it was red-hot fishing, and they caught most of their fish from stops made on three kelp paddies.
They caught their yellowfin tuna early in the day, and Meisel said the yellowfin were in the 12- to 18-pound range.
After limiting out on yellowfin, he said they went to another area looking for bluefin tuna. They finished the day off in storybook style, with a stop from a kelp paddy that produced 10 40- to 50-pound bluefin tuna.
Private boater Tony Abbassian of Izuna fished on a recent three-quarter-day trip aboard San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing, and reported fantastic kelp paddy fishing on yellowtail. They also had a kelp paddy stop that produced six dorado and one yellowfin tuna.
They found this hot local offshore action within 30 miles or so of Point Loma while working paddies found around and below the 425 Bank, below and outside of Los Coronados islands.
Private boater Bryan Cruz of Double Cross fished a recent trip to the region of the top of the 1010 Trench and the 213 Bank. Cruz reported catching three albacore, five dorado, 14 yellowfin tuna, a 45-pound bluefin tuna and a bunch of small yellowtail that were released.
Cruz had two albacore stops and reported his best fishing while working a half-degree temperature break — 61 miles, 197 degrees from Point Loma. During the course of the day, he found action in water temperature ranging from 70.5 to 71.4 degrees, and he generally found his best fishing while working the cooler side of the temperature breaks.
Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported about fishing a recent trip where they covered a lot of water and worked the region of the 1067 Trench, the 1010 Trench and the areas below both the 1010 Trench and the 295 Bank. Golding reported catching limits of dorado, one yellowfin tuna and lots of small yellowtail that were released.
Golding reported catching his yellowfin tuna from a kelp paddy that also produced seven dorado and six yellowtail, fishing on the Saddle between the 1067 Trench and 1010 Trench — 67 miles, 196 degrees from Point Loma.
Two kelp paddies close to one another produced wide-open yellowtail action for Golding, below the Double 220 Bank — 80 miles, 179 degrees from Point Loma. They finished up the day with another kelp paddy stop that produced one dorado and four yellowtail, below the 295 Bank — 78 miles, 177 degrees from Point Loma.
Private boater Mike Seymour fished a recent trip with private boater Pete Otis aboard Otis’ boat Fishaholic. Seymour reported fishing the region of the 213 Bank and said that they found a kelp paddy that produced six bluefin tuna, limits of yellowtail and several dorado. This hot kelp paddy stop was 60 miles, 197 degrees from Point Loma.
On the way back to Point Loma they found kelp paddies in the region of the 425 Bank that produced lots of small yellowtail that were released, and also produced five dorado. Their best stop around the 425 Bank was 26 miles, 180 degrees from Point Loma. Seymour reported calling other private boaters in to share in the action, and he said they were all catching fish, as well.
Seymour passed along a tip that has worked well for him all season: He has had a lot of success fishing blue and white Salas 6X and 6X Jr. jigs at kelp paddy stops, and he’s also had those same jigs produce well for him when bluefin were biting at the tuna pens earlier in the year.
His technique has been to make a long cast and let the jig sink to around 150 feet before starting his retrieve. This technique worked well for him again on this trip, and he reported catching yellowtail, bluefin and dorado on the iron.
Seymour said that Otis was also having similar success while using the Salas 6X jig in the all-white color.
Private boater Al Gagnon of Kick n back reported fishing the area to the east of the Upper Hidden Bank and catching two dorado, 13 yellowtail and five yellowfin tuna. Their yellowfin tuna action originated from blind jig strikes on the troll, and he said they got their yellowtail and dorado by fishing sardines around kelp paddies. Their best action came from fishing down 45 to 50 miles, 175 degrees from Point Loma.
Capt. Chris Abate of the six-pack charter yacht Prime Time with Prime Time Sportfishing fished a recent overnight trip and reported catching eight yellowfin tuna, limits of dorado, 20 nice-size yellowtail, many smaller-size yellowtail that were released, and lots of skipjack that were also released.
Abate found his yellowfin tuna action while fishing the area of the Saddle, located between the 1010 Trench and the 1067 Trench. They had two stops on yellowfin while fishing between 69 and 72 miles, 192 degrees from Point Loma. Their best overall stop of the day was what Abate described as a “ripper” of a dorado stop from a kelp paddy below and outside of the Upper Hidden Bank — 46 miles, 189 degrees from Point Loma.
There have not been many boats fishing at Los Coronados islands lately, but there have been a few — and the reports I have been getting are that the yellowtail fishing has slowed.
One private boater who tried the Coronados in the morning and who found the fishing slow found wide-open yellowtail fishing after leaving the islands — at a kelp paddy just 3 miles west of North Island.
In along the San Diego County coast, boats fishing the Point Loma Kelp Bed area have been finding an assortment of rockfish biting, along with a few calico bass and sand bass. Some of the better areas for rockfish have been at hard-bottom spots around the Whistler Buoy and at the Point Loma Pipeline.
Squid have been available to catch for bait in various areas up and down the San Diego County coast. Some productive spots have been below the Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach, as well as outside of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Leucadia. Productive depths for locating squid have been in 10 to 15 fathoms of water.
There have been some yellowtail and nice-size halibut biting on the live squid outside of the Crystal Pier, below the lower end of La Jolla. Also, look for a few yellowtail at the area of Northwest, outside of the upper end of La Jolla.
Another zone worth a try for the halibut and yellowtail has been where the squid are being caught outside of Del Mar. Also look for an occasional white seabass biting in the areas where the squid are being found, during the dark.
Rockfish, sheephead and bass have also been biting well on the live squid at La Jolla.
New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing used live squid for bait in the La Jolla area on two half-day trips. The 84 anglers aboard caught 70 reds, 24 sheephead, five whitefish, 14 sculpin, 10 sand bass, 158 rockfish, one lingcod, 44 calico bass, seven halibut and 21 yellowtail. Seaforth Sportfishing reported that they caught six of the halibut on the morning half-day trip — and the halibut were good-size fish running between 25 and 35 pounds.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reported he has seen a recent surge in fishing for calico bass and sand bass. He reported fishing a recent half-day trip to the kelp beds off Moonlight Beach, and his eight anglers had a catch that included 36 calico bass.
Their next trip was a three-quarter-day charter to fish the kelp beds off Solana Beach and Del Mar. He had 18 anglers post a catch that included 14 sand bass, 66 calico bass and two nice-size sheephead. Cacciola reported improved water conditions, with 69- to 71-degree water that has been ranging in color from clean green to blue.
Cacciola said that their “smaller” live baits have been 6- to 7-inch sardines, and he said that a few of the nicer-size calico bass have been biting on live sardines. Their best overall bass fishing has been while using strips of fresh frozen squid (the type that is suitable for human consumption) or chunks of sardine.
They have seen success fishing these cut baits with one-eighth- to one-quarter-ounce split shots for calicos. Cacciola said that you can target a sand bass by using a heavier weight to get the bait down near the bottom.
The 2012 fishing season just keeps on rolling and continues to provide some great action. Take advantage of these opportunities while the fish are still around and biting.
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 email@example.com.