SAN DIEGO — New Year’s Day has come and gone and in it’s wake is a lot of good fishing to talk about, with bluefin tuna and yellowtail highlighting recent catches and with some striped marlin activity to report on as well. The 2018 fishing season did not take long to develop and was off and running on New Year’s Day.
Bluefin tuna continued to bite at the 60 Mile Bank through the end of 2017 and continued to produce action for about a week into 2018, but a Jan. 6 fishing trip returned with 20 yellowtails and zero bluefin tuna. With so few boats out fishing in January it is yet to be determined if there are still bluefin around and biting at the 60 Mile Bank.
Private boater Alan Baron of Drambuie reported about fishing a two-day trip to the 60 Mile Bank aboard Provider out of Newport Beach on Dec. 31, 2017 and Jan. 1. Baron’s reported two anglers aboard the trip caught their limits of four bluefin tuna while fishing with slow trolled live sardines.
The slow trolled sardines technique did not work for them the following day, however. They tried other methods and eventually found success and caught three bluefin tuna, which was one fish short of their limits for the second day of fishing. Two of the three bluefin were caught on yo-yoed Flat Fall jigs and the third bluefin was caught on a live squid.
The best bet for the bluefin tuna at the 60 Mile Bank has been fishing at the upper high spot. If you find a kelp paddie in the region of the 60 Mile Bank, Butterfly Bank or 302 Spot there is also a chance at getting into a good yellowtail bite on what have mostly been the 6- to 10-pound fish.
Bluefin at the 60 Mile Bank have been in the 12- to 35-pound range and biting best on sardines. In addition to sardines, Flat Fall jigs and live squid have also producing a few bluefin. Most of the bluefin have been caught while sitting on the anchor, while drifting or while slow trolling with live sardines. Most anglers are using live bait outfits with fluorocarbon leaders in the 20- to 25-pound range. Using small hooks relative to the size of the live bait has also been helpful in getting the bluefin to bite.
The New Year has seen another bluefin bite area develop for boats fishing offshore waters below and outside of Punta Colnett. This action has been found while fishing areas such as the Squiggles and the Boot between 110 and 120+ miles below Point Loma.
Boats fishing 1.5-day trips at the more coastal oriented areas around the high spot off Punta Colnett have been catching a mix of yellowtail, bonito, reds and assorted rockfish. It has been hit or miss on getting into a good yellowtail bite but the fishing for bonito and for quality-sized rockfish and reds has been consistent. When yellowtails are located they have been quality fish that average around 20 pounds.
Striped marlins are also in the offshore fishing picture to start the year. A report from Capt. Maurice Smith of Dos Hermanos is Mark Henwood and Skete Simmons of Concubine went out to try deep dropping for swordfish at the 289 Spot and found twosleeper marlin inside of the Ridge while on a course from Point Loma to the 289 Spot. All they had with them in the way of bait were some large dead squid they had rigged for swordfish. They dragged the squid by the marlin sleepers but the marlin were not interested. Smith said there was a lot of life in the area with anchovies and birds and that the water temperature was at 62.5 degrees.
What has also been unseasonably good is the fishing for yellowtail off Point Loma and Imperial Beach. Good numbers of yellowtail continue to bite in an area ranging from 1.5 miles south of the Whistler Buoy on down to the International Reef that is located a short way above the Mexico Border. The yellows have been holding in this region for weeks and the past few days of fishing has seen them biting very well.
Some sportboat counts for Sunday, January 7, 2018 start with Daily Double out of Point Loma Sportfishing; its morning half-day trip returned with 11 anglers catching 51 yellowtails.
New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing had a morning half-day trip with 36 anglers catch 70 yellowtails. On the afternoon trip they had 47 anglers catch 235 yellowtails and one sand bass. Premier out of H&M Landing had a morning half-day trip with 33 anglers catch 82 yellowtails and one sand bass. On the afternoon trip, 20 anglers caught 69 yellowtails.
Fisherman’s Landing had a morning half-day trip on Dolphin with 69 anglers catch 107 yellowtails. On the afternoon trip, 33 anglers caught 121 yellowtails.
The yellowtail have been mostly 6- to 10-pound fish, which have been biting from finding trolling strikes on Rapalas, meter marks, sonar marks, spots of working birds and strikes on slow trolled mackerel and slow trolled sardines. One located, the yellows have been biting on sardines, mackerel, yo-yo iron and surface iron.
Anglers need to keep in mind the annual two-month rockfish closure in Southern California waters went into effect on Jan. 1. Anglers need to fish for rockfish and groundfish in Mexican waters until the end of the closure on March 1.
I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and enjoy some of the fine January fishing. With species to target that include bluefin tuna, striped marlin, yellowtail, bonito, calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, halibut, striped bass and rockfish there is something that is likely to perk the interest of most any angler. 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.
Red Rooster III photo