Anglers Switch Focus to Rockfish, Lingcod, White Seabass and Halibut

By: Bob Vanian

The 2013 Southern California offshore fishing season has come to an end, and anglers can enjoy their memories of the good fishing we had for bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, dorado and yellowtail.

It is now the time of year when anglers start looking for other species on which to focus their fishing efforts, until the Spring 2014 fishing season begins to deliver warmwater species again. San Diego area anglers have started to concentrate on fishing hard-bottom and structure areas both along the coast and at Los Coronado islands, and they have been finding good mixed-bag fishing for an assortment of rockfish and some bonus lingcod.

There have not been many boats fishing Los Coronados islands, as the Mexican authorities have continued to enforce the requirement that every person aboard be carrying an FMM Immigration form, a Mexican fishing license and a passport. You also need to have the boat’s registration papers, an FCC Ships Station License for your VHF radio and an FCC Operator’s License for the operator of the radio.

Fortunately, there is a new way to obtain the FMM Immigration forms, and submit and print out a list of the people who will be aboard your boat for the trip: online — at

The few boats that have been sampling the fishing out at the Coronados have been finding good fishing for an assortment of rockfish and some lingcod.

Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing caught the last yellowtail I know of out at Los Coronados back on Nov. 2, when 17 anglers on a three-quarter-day trip caught one yellowtail, along with 40 rockfish, 41 salmon grouper, 64 whitefish, four lingcod and seven sheephead.

Two of the better areas for rockfish and lingcod fishing have included the hard-bottom area to the north of North Island and the ridge areas outside of the Middle Grounds. A good depth range for fishing has been in 25 to 45 fathoms of water.

Another productive bottom fishing zone is along the outer ridges of the South Kelp Ridge below South Island, in 20- to 35-fathom depths.

Skippers fishing hard-bottom and structure areas along the San Diego County coast have also been finding good numbers of assorted rockfish and a few lingcod biting.

Boats fishing off Imperial Beach have been doing well at the Imperial Beach Pipeline. At Point Loma, productive areas have included the hard-bottom spots around the Whistler Buoy, the Point Loma Pipeline and outside of the Green Tank.

At La Jolla, rockfish have been biting at hard-bottom spots outside the lower and upper end, and a good depth range has been in 20 to 40 fathoms of water.

As anglers continue up the coast, there have been rockfish biting outside Del Mar, Encinitas, Leucadia and Solana Beach. A good depth range in these areas has been in 38 to 48 fathoms of water.

The Box Canyon hard-bottom area above Oceanside has also been producing rockfish, in the 35- to 48-fathom depths.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reported that they have been catching squid to use for bait, outside of the Academy at Carlsbad. They have been using live squid and strips of fresh or fresh frozen squid to fish for rockfish at hard-bottom areas outside of Leucadia, Encinitas and Solana Beach.

Cacciola reported that they have been doing well on a mix of quality-size reds, salmon grouper and chuckleheads. On a recent trip, one angler aboard caught a 5-pound red and a 12-pound sheephead on one drop, while using a two-hook gangion baited with squid.

There is an abundance of squid to be caught for bait at spots up and down the San Diego County coast. Squid have been reported off the Lab and Five Tanks at Point Loma, outside of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, as well as off Torrey Pines. In the Oceanside region, squid have been reported off Carlsbad and above the Hovercraft Station at Camp Pendleton.

Squid has worked very well for catching rockfish and lingcod, and it has produced an occasional white seabass or halibut. Of special note has been the lingcod action anglers have enjoyed while using live squid for bait at the Point Loma Pipeline.

There are some erratic showings of yellowtail in the La Jolla area — and every once in a while, someone is at the right spot at the right time and catches a nice-sized fish. Surface iron has been the best bet for yellowtail, but anglers need to get the jig to the working fish before they sound.

The area where the yellows seem to pop up most often has been in 20- to 30-fathom depths, below the lower boundary of the Marine Life Protection Act-mandated closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla.

While warmwater species may be just about gone from local waters until spring, anglers who shift gears and enjoy the current bottomfishing opportunities can continue to enjoy some fun fishing during the cool months.

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 976-Bite at 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

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