SAN DIEGO — The Thanksgiving holiday has come and went, but the 2017 Southern California offshore fishing season powers on with good numbers of bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna still biting in local offshore waters.
Water temperatures continue to hold at 66 to 67 degrees and the tuna have been content to hold in those temperatures. As this report is being written, there are Small Craft Advisories posted for northwest winds to 25 knots. Who knows if this will be enough of a weather event to roll the water and send the tuna away? It could happen at any time but has not happened as of yet!
The current hot spot area for bluefin tuna is the 60 Mile Bank where good numbers of bluefin have been biting that have been running from 15 to 200+ pounds. Most of the bluefin of the past several days have fallen within the 15- to 100-pound range. Boats have been finding action on bluefin while sitting on the anchor, while drifting and while slow trolling with nose hooked sardines.
I talked with a private boater who reported catching five larger bluefin out of 10 hookups on a recent trip to the 60 Mile Bank. He reported getting eight on the slow trolled sardines and two hookups from yo-yoed Flat Fall jigs. They caught good sized fish and had one bluefin heavier than 100 pounds, one bluefin in the high 90s, two bluefin that were in the 70- to 80-pound range and another bluefin of 45 pounds. He said using smaller hooks and using live bait outfits with 40-pound test fluorocarbon leaders produced the stealth they needed to draw strikes from the bluefin while slow trolling.
Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck fished a recent trip to the 60 Mile Bank and found the early morning fishing to be slow. He said there was a big fleet of boats in the area that were anchored and drifting. From his observations, he said the boats around them also were not finding much going on in the way of early morning bluefin action.
After a couple of hours of slow fishing at the 60 Mile Bank, Golding left the area and fished his way up to the western wing of the Butterfly Bank to try and find some biting tuna. He said they found a lot of porpoise at the Butterfly Bank but they did not meter any tuna. They eventually went back to the 60 Mile Bank and ending up catching two bluefin tuna (15 and 25 pounds) on drifted flylined sardines.
Yellowfin tuna are still in the offshore picture with the post-Thanksgiving Day weekend seeing yellowfin biting at the Butterfly Bank and the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank. Most of the yellowfin action was associated with porpoise with the fish biting on sardines and on trolled feathers, Rapalas and Halcos. There were a few yellowfin stops reported by boats fishing around the western wing of the Butterfly Bank, the eastern wing of the Butterfly Bank and the southeastern edges of the Butterfly Bank. Some of the action originated on the troll while fishing the porpoise but what was working best was to drift or slow troll with sardines around a meter mark, sonar mark or spot of working birds found with the porpoise. It was hit or miss action but there was some action to be found. The yellowfin around the Butterfly Bank were running from 15 to 60 pounds.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the yellowfin tuna bit wide open for boats fishing around porpoise found at the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank.
The marlins have been thinning out but a few are still being spotted. A few marlin jumpers were seen at the 60 Mile Bank and 43 Fathom Spot areas. There was also some marlin activity reported at the San Salvador Knoll inside of the Butterfly Bank. The recent reports from the eastern part of Catalina show marlin fishing have been slow but there have been a few swordfish showing outside of Avalon and around the Avalon Bank.
Fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been good for bonito and rockfish and still provides a chance at a flurry of yellowtail action or scratching out a bluefin tuna. The most recent three-quarter-day trip on San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing saw 37 anglers catch one yellowtail, one bluefin tuna, 150 bonito, two calico bass, 2 lingcod and 100 rockfish. The most recent three-quarter-day trip on Point Loma out of Point Loma Sportfishing had 15 anglers catch three bluefin tuna, 55 whitefish, two sheephead, one calico bass and 35 bonito.
Bonito have been biting at a lot of spots around the Islands such as the Middle Grounds, the weather side of North Island, the Lighthouse at the south tip of South Island, the 5 Minute Kelp, the South Kelp and the Rockpile. Those same areas also provide a chance at finding a flurry of yellowtail action. The best areas for a chance at a bluefin tuna have been at spots around the south tip of South Island such as the Lighthouse, the 5 Minute Kelp and the South Kelp.
The fishing along the San Diego area coast is still producing pretty good fishing for bonito and yellowtail for boats fishing areas between the Mexico border and the La Jolla Canyon. The best techniques to locate the bonito and yellowtail have been via trolling strikes on feathers, cedar plugs and Rapalas as well as by looking for meter marks or sonar marks to stop on and fish with sardines.
A specific productive area has been at the Imperial Beach Flats while fishing a short way above the Mexico border in 18 to 25 fathoms of water. Also productive has been the area ranging from west of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma on up to the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay in the 18 to 40 fathom depths. The area outside of the upper end of La Jolla has also been a productive zone while fishing from the edges of the kelp on up to the deep water of the La Jolla Canyon.
Private boater Jim Eisenberg of Quick Turn reported finding very good fishing for a mix of big bonito and yellowtail while fishing the Jetty Kelp area within 2 miles of Mission Bay. Eisenberg was fishing with his nephews Trey and Sam aboard and provided an on the spot report where he reported finding hot bonito action and also said that they were hooking an occasional yellowtail. They were still on fish at the time of his report and he said they were having a great time with the large bonito that were going to 8 pounds. They saw yellowtail cruising around the boat and hooked a 10-pound yellowtail that was lost at the boat.
The edges of the kelp beds along the San Diego area coast are still producing fair numbers of calico bass and a few bonito but more and more boats have been shifting over to fishing for rockfish as the water continues to cool.
The late season tuna fishing will eventually succumb to the change of seasons and go away for the winter but anglers are certainly enjoying the fishing while the fish are still with us. I hope you have a chance to get out there and get in on the action too! 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 email@example.com.
Chief Sportfishing photo