By: Bob Vanian
This winter’s fishing season has been blessed by several weeks of good fishing for quality sized yellowtail out at Los Coronado Islands. The yellowtail bite at Los Coronado Islands has dipped for the moment but anglers still have reason to be encouraged by the signs of spring as they are starting to see other species such as bass, halibut and barracuda.
The past weekend saw improved fishing in the Imperial Beach area for sand bass, halibut, sculpin and what were mostly short-sized barracuda. Capt. Ron Baker of Point Loma out of Point Loma Sportfishing specializes in halibut fishing off Imperial Beach during the late winter and spring months and he fished a recent half-day trip to Imperial Beach and posted a fish count of 23 anglers catching 19 sculpin, 31 sand bass, 1 barracuda, 6 halibut, 8 short sized halibut that were released, 28 short sized sand bass that were released, 100 mackerel that were released and 25 short sized barracuda that were released.
Baker was encouraged by all the bait and bird life he saw in the area and was estimating that their big halibut was a 15 pound fish. Even though the barracuda were mostly short sized fish, the appearance of barracuda is a positive sign that we are starting to break out of the winter time fishing mode and that some spring time surface fishing activity is beginning to stir.
The best zone off Imperial Beach has been drifting around the kelp stringers that are outside of and below the Imperial Beach Pier in 50 to 75 feet of water. Halibut are the prize fish down this way and look for halibut to be biting at the sandy bottom that is adjacent to the kelp stinger areas. The Imperial Beach Pipeline has also been a productive structure spot down this way and has shown improved fishing for what has mostly been a mix of sculpin and sand bass.
There has been a chance at finding some yellowtail at La Jolla throughout much of the winter season but for the most part it has been hard to get the yellows to bite. Boats with scanning sonar report seeing schools of yellowtail outside of the upper end of La Jolla on a somewhat regular basis and New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing was able to catch a yellowtail on a recent afternoon half day trip. Maybe some warming water will have the yellowtail change their habits a bit and start biting better. Skippers fishing coastal waters on the United States side of the Mexican border in Southern California waters have been operating under the restrictions imposed by the annual two month rockfish/groundfish closure and have been focusing their efforts on species that have remained open to fishing such as sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, halibut, sand dabs and yellowtail. The good news is that the end of the closure period is soon coming and that anglers can resume fishing for rockfish and other species governed by the closure beginning March 1, 2014.
The fishing for sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and halibut along the coast has been fair but seems to be improving as talked about above. Hard bottom and structure spots have been productive for sand bass, sculpin and calico bass. Specific productive areas for the bass and sculpin in San Diego County waters have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, hard bottom and kelp stringer areas off Imperial Beach, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at the Buoyline at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the NEL Tower off Mission Beach, the area below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor, Box Canyon and the hard bottom along the outside edges of the kelp at the Barn.
A good strategy for a chance at a halibut has been to try fishing sandy bottom areas that are adjacent to hard bottom and structure. Spots that have been producing some halibut action have been Imperial Beach, the Lighthouse Ridge at Point Loma, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Torrey Pines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor, the Golf Ball and Box Canyon. Good live baits for halibut have been small mackerel, sardines and anchovies.
The winter season has produced some impressive yellowtail bites out at Los Coronado Islands but the bite has been slow for the past week. The best area for yellowtail during this winter season has been fishing up and down the weather side of North Island in 18 to 35 fathoms of water. The fish have been located via meter marks found by scanning sonar and yo-yoed iron has been working best. Hopefully, it will not be long before the yellowtail bite stages another rally.
While waiting for the yellowtail bite to bounce back, anglers have been doing well on rockfish while fishing the waters around and about Los Coronado Islands. One of the more productive areas for the bottom fishing has been the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank while fishing on the Mexican side of the border in 60 to 90 fathoms of water. There has also been good bottom fishing for boats working the hard bottom to the north and north-northwest of North Island in 35 to 55 fathoms of water. Also productive for rockfish have been the ridges located outside of the Middle Grounds and the outer ridges of the South Kelp Ridge while fishing in depths ranging from 25 to 40 fathoms of water.
The Mexican authorities have been regularly patrolling the waters around and about Los Coronado Islands and have been sending anglers home who have not been in compliance with regulations. From a private boater’s perspective, things to carry for each person aboard are an FMM Immigration Form, a passport and a Mexican Fishing License. The FMM Immigration forms can be obtained over the internet at inm.gob.mx. You should also have the boat’s registration paperwork aboard and be able to present an FCC permit for the VHF radio and an FCC permit for the operator of the radio. Additionally, the more I read about the problems people have had at some of the marinas within Mexico, the more I am thinking it would also be good practice to obtain a Temporary Importation Permit for the boat from Mexico customs and to also carry that document when boating or fishing in Mexico.
Boats fishing on ½ day trips continue to find excellent bottom fishing while fishing the Mexican coast in the Punta Colnett and Punta San Jose areas. Good sized reds and lingcod continue to highlight catches from down this way. A recent trip on Old Glory out of H&M Landing had a fish count of 30 anglers on a 1.5 day trip catching 135 rockfish, 150 reds and 15 lingcod.
Spring does not arrive until March 20, 2014 but signs of the spring fishing season are already here! 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 www.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.