SAN DIEGO — Southern California anglers are generally blessed with great weather conditions to go along with great fishing, but the month of January 2017 has seen an unusual number of weather systems pass through the region. Southern California finally received much needed rain and a good amount of snow to local mountains, but these storms have also brought high winds and stormy seas, resulting in the postings of Small Craft Advisories and Gale Warnings.
There have been nice weather days in between weather systems, and these nice weather days provided some good fishing. Anglers need to monitor the weather reports closely and choose their days wisely to fish on the good weather days.
The best fishing on the good weather days has been the 1.5-day trips down the Mexican coast to fish off Punta Colnett. The Punta Colnett area has been producing good mixed bag catches of yellowtail, lingcod and quality-sized reds. There are also a good number of assorted rockfish along with occasional flurries of action on bonito and barracuda.
Yellowtail were in the 12- to 25-pound range and have been biting best on yo-yoed iron dropped down to schools of fish being found via locating sonar marks and meter marks. The lingcod being caught have also been quality-sized fish that go to 15+ pounds. Live mackerel and live sardines have been working well for bait for the lingcod.
As an example of the recent fishing off Punta Colnett, Fisherman’s Landing reports Pacific Queen returned from a recent 1.5-day trip with a catch of 24 yellowtail, 75 reds, 15 lingcod, 40 rockfish and 8 bonito. Fisherman’s Landing also had Liberty out fishing on a 1.5-day trip where 27 anglers caught 28 yellowtail, 13 lingcod and 65 rockfish. H&M Landing had Old Glory out fishing a 1.5-day trip with 11 anglers catching 96 reds, four bonito and six yellowtail.
Los Coronado Islands were recently declared to be a biosphere conservation area by the Mexican government and anglers are still awaiting clarification of how it might or might not affect sportfishing off the Baja California coast. A few trips have fished around and about Los Coronado Islands during the past few weeks and found good fishing for rockfish along with the chance at scratching out a bonito, yellowtail or lingcod. The best zone for a chance at locating some bonito or yellowtail activity has been while fishing along the weather side of North Island. Look for meter marks, sonar marks or working birds to locate yellowtail and try yo-yoed iron or sardines fished on a dropper loop rig.
The annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure for Southern California anglers is currently in effect and will remain in place until March 1, 2017. During the rockfish/groundfish closure period, anglers are targeting species that remain open to fishing and have been finding pretty good action on a mix of calico bass, sand bass and sculpin along with an occasional bonus halibut, yellowtail or white seabass.
The best chance at locating yellowtail has been while fishing off the stretch of coast between Mission Bay and Torrey Pines. There has also been an occasional white seabass caught incidental to fishing for yellowtail with the upper end of La Jolla and Pacific Beach providing the best chance at a white seabass.
There have been three main areas where yellowtail activity has been reported within the stretch between Mission Bay and Torrey Pines. The best area for a chance at finding some yellowtail action has been while fishing between Mission Bay and the hard bottom area below and outside of the Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach. A good depth range within this zone has been in 15 to 25 fathoms of water. Another area that has provided a chance at finding some yellowtail action is at the hard bottom and kelp stringer area of Northwest outside of the upper end of La Jolla. The 15 to 20 fathom depths would be a good range to be trying in this area. There has also been occasional yellowtail activity associated with spots of breezing bait reported in the 25 to 80 fathom depths outside of Torrey Pines.
The yellowtail fishing has been very much hit or miss but if you connect, it is a chance at a trophy-sized fish as most of the yellows have been in the 20- to 30-pound range. Sardines, mackerel, surface iron and yo-yo iron have been working for yellowtail and the fish have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks, spots of working birds and bait balls.
Despite the steady stream of weather systems passing through Southern California in recent weeks, there have been some opportunities to get out on good weather days between storms and enjoy some fun fishing. The key has been to closely watch the weather reports and to pick your days wisely. Keep on fishing and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.