Anglers Targeting Yellowtail, Barracuda, Calico and White Seabass

By: Bob Vanian

There has been steady improvement in the yellowtail fishing at Los Coronados islands. And the past 10 days have seen some of the best and most consistent fishing of the spring season.

With barracuda and calico bass also active and biting, to complement the yellowtail fishing, the spring season out at the islands is fully under way and providing good overall fishing.

The yellowtail biting at Los Coronados have been mixed-size fish, and most are between 10 and 30 pounds.

A variety of techniques have been leading to the yellowtail action, with skippers finding fish biting when anchored, drifting, slow-trolling live baits, stopping over deep meter marks and stopping alongside groups of fish found up breezing on the surface. The yellowtail have been biting on sardines, small mackerel, surface iron and yo-yo iron — with the live bait and the surface iron producing most of the action.

What has also improved is the number of areas that are producing yellowtail on a given day. There might be several hotspot areas in a day of fishing — and productive areas include the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, the north end of South Island, the Ribbon Kelp and the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island.

Those wanting to target barracuda and calico bass have done best at kelp bed areas, such as the Ribbon Kelp, Five Minute Kelp and South Kelp.

Private boaters Capt. Bob Woodard of Christina Lynn and Robb Lane recently went out fishing at Los Coronados aboard Lane’s boat, AJ. Woodard reported that they caught five yellowtail while slow-trolling sardines along the weather side of North Island.

Their yellowtail were bigger fish that ranged from 20 to 31 pounds. Woodard said that Lane caught a 31-pound yellowtail — and it was the biggest yellowtail in the Marlin Club’s Spring Shootout Tournament.

Private boater Lee Fleming of Jawbreaker fished a recent trip to Los Coronados and reported catching seven yellowtail. Fleming reported mixed-size fish, with most in the 10- to 12-pound range, and with one big fish of around 20 pounds.

Fleming reported catching the yellowtail on drifted sardines fished with 20- and 25-pound test fluorocarbon leaders. He found the action while fishing off the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island and also while fishing at the north end of South Island.

Private boater Team New Dippy fished a recent trip to Los Coronados, and Capt. Tony reported he and his friend, Mark, combined to catch four yellowtail and two calico bass. They found this action while fishing on anchor between the north end of South Island and the Middle Grounds.

Their calico bass were nice 16-inch fish, and their yellowtail were in the 12- to 15-pound range. They caught their fish on sardines, fished on 20-pound test fluorocarbon leaders. Capt. Tony said that the bite fired up after a balled-up school of anchovies moved through the area.

There is also some news to report from the offshore fishing grounds. Prowler out of Fisherman’s Landing went offshore on a recent overnight exploratory trip and found some big bonito and some kelp paddy yellowtail biting. Their 11 anglers caught 34 yellowtail and 20 bonito.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been breaking out of its bottomfishing mode, with some good numbers of calico bass biting. A lot of the calicos being caught must be thrown back, under the terms of the new 14-inch size minimum. But the 12- and 13-inch fish are still fun to catch and release, and there are also some decent numbers of keeper-sized fish in the mix.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star, out of Helgren’s Sportfishing, reported making a recent three-quarter-day trip to fish the kelp bed areas off Leucadia and Solana Beach. They had some beautiful 4- to 4.5-inch anchovies for bait — and the calicos were biting well for them, on the anchovies and plastics.

Cacciola reported about 50 calicos that were in the 12- to 13-inch size range —which would have been legal-size fish last year, but which had to be thrown back under the new 14-inch minimum size requirement.

In addition to those 50 “throwback” fish, they caught 20 of the keeper-size 14-inch-and-larger calico bass, along with an assortment of rockfish and three keeper-size sand bass. The water conditions were very nice, and the water temperature was running 65.5 to 66.5 degrees.

Productive kelp bed areas for the calico bass along the San Diego County area coast include the kelp at Point Loma, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, Carlsbad, Yellowtail Kelp and the Barn. Anchovies have been working best for calico bass, and there has also been some calico bass action coming on sardines and plastics.

There are some squid around at La Jolla, and there has been an occasional white seabass biting for those fishing with live squid during the dark and early morning daylight hours. Try fishing for seabass wherever you might locate squid to catch for bait.

The upper end of La Jolla has been the best spot for finding squid and for catching an occasional white seabass, for anglers fishing a short way outside of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) no-fishing zone.

There have also been occasional showings of yellowtail at La Jolla, with spots of breezing fish spotted a short way outside of the kelp, along the middle and upper parts of La Jolla. Recent days have also seen showings of yellowtail below the MPA closure area at the lower end of La Jolla. Surface iron and sardines have been the best for a shot at a yellowtail at La Jolla.

There has been a bit of yellowtail activity reported out at San Clemente Island, with sporadic action being reported by boats fishing the back side of the island between China Point and Pyramid Cove.

The fish have been biting on sardines and surface iron, in an area ranging from right outside of the kelp line, out to around 25 fathoms of water depth. The best chance at finding a biting yellowtail has been to locate a school of yellowtail that are up working on the surface, and to fish for them with sardines and surface iron.

Catalina Island has shown some improvement, with a bit of white seabass and yellowtail action going on. It has been scratchy fishing, but continued improvement might be in store after such a slow start to the early part of the spring season.

There has been squid to be caught at night in the area between the Vs and Salta Verde, out in 15 to 18 fathoms of water. Look to catch a white seabass during the dark and early morning daylight hours, while fishing in the same area as you might locate some squid.

For yellowtail, try using live squid in the same zone during the early morning daylight hours. During the remainder of the day, look for the occasional spot of breezing yellowtail up on the surface — and try sardines, live squid and surface iron.

The spring fishing season is starting to hit its stride, and anglers can look for continued improvement as we head toward the summer fishing months.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *