Bluefin tuna and yellowtail bites begin to pick up offshore

SAN DIEGO — The spring fishing season marches on. Some mild late season northern weather systems continue to pass through Southern California and keep water temperatures on the cool side. The spring surface fishing continues to progress even with the sometimes unstable weather conditions and is starting to provide more consistent action for those chasing bluefin tuna and yellowtail in offshore waters.

The surface fishing is also continuing to improve around Los Coronado Islands and along the San Diego County coast. There have been occasional flurries of action on yellowtail, bonito and barracuda at Los Coronado Islands. There has also been an occasional yellowtail or white sea bass biting at La Jolla. Calico bass have been starting to become a bit more active at some of the coastal kelp bed areas.

The offshore fishing for bluefin tuna and yellowtail continues to grab the spotlight as boats fishing areas within 40 miles of Point Loma have started to see an increase in the size and the number of bluefin tuna biting. There have also been finding good numbers of yellowtail biting from some of the offshore kelp paddies.

In recent days the best area for the bluefin tuna and yellowtail action has been for boats fishing between the 371 Bank and the 390 Bank, which puts you between 30 and 38 miles 205 to 210 degrees from Point Loma.

As an example of the recent fishing, Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing had one of the better days of bluefin action on May 12, when 18 anglers on an overnight trip boated 20 bluefin tuna. Fisherman’s Landing reported most of the bluefin were in the 50- to 60-pound range and Pacific Queen had a big bluefin tuna aboard weighing in at about 180 pounds. Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing also got into bluefin and yellowtail on the same day and had 6 anglers on a 1.5-day trip catch 6 bluefin tuna and 35 yellowtaisl. Fisherman’s Landing reported the bluefin caught on Condor were quality fish in the 40- to 60-pound class.

The yellowtail fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been hit or miss with some very good days of fishing on the “hit” kind of days. A recent fish count from one of the hot days of fishing as posted by Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing was 17 anglers on a three-quarter day-trip catching 61 yellowtail and 3 barracuda.

Most of the yellowtail schools have been found by stopping on spots of working tern birds and the fish under the working tern birds have also included some barracuda and bonito. The hot yellowtail bite area has been along the South Kelp Ridge below South Island with the inside part of the ridge being the best. Over the past 10 days or so yellowtail have been biting from spots of working birds found from the South Kelp Ridge on down to the Finger Bank and locating the working tern birds has been a key to locating the yellowtail.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast continues to produce an occasional nice sized yellowtail or white sea bass at the upper end of La Jolla but the water continues to be cool and off color in many areas along the coast and on most days, the bite on these species has been rather scratchy. The remainder of the fishing along the San Diego County coast has been productive for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and rockfish along with an occasional halibut.

Hard bottom and structure spots have been best for the bass, sculpin and rockfish and fishing the sandy bottom adjacent to hard bottom and structure spots has been best for a chance at a halibut. In addition to fishing hard bottom and structure spots for bass, there has been a bit more calico bass action starting to stir in some of the kelp bed areas. Look to fish kelp bed areas where you find your cleanest and warmest water and where there is a moderate downhill current flow.

If you want to give the La Jolla area a try for yellowtail, the best bet has been fishing with a live mackerel, surface iron or yo-yo iron outside of the upper end of La Jolla in the 18 to 30 fathom depths. Looking for meter marks, sonar marks or spots of breaking fish has been the best way to locate yellowtail. The best bet for a white sea bass has been fishing along the edges of the kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla with a live mackerel.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reported about a recent three-quarter-day trip where they fished hard bottom areas south of Oceanside. Cacciola said they worked areas between Leucadia and Solana Beach in 60 to 70 feet of water and found good mixed bag fishing for an assortment of sand bass, calico bass, sheephead and whitefish. They also had success with halibut and caught a 23-inch and a 33-inch halibut.

Cacciola said the water temperature was running 62 to 63 degrees and he said the water was off color during the morning hours. He says the pattern has been that the water tends to clean up as the current picks up and runs downhill during the afternoon hours. Cacciola reports having live anchovies for bait and says they have been working very well. Strips of fresh frozen squid have also been working well for the whitefish.

There is occasional thresher shark action reported outside of La Jolla but the past weekend saw some better numbers of thresher sharks biting for boats fishing outside of the Carlsbad Power Plant at the Carlsbad Canyon. A few thresher sharks were also biting as boats were working outside of the stretch of coast between Oceanside and Carlsbad. The thresher sharks have gone to 400+ pounds and have been biting on Bait-O-Matics that are baited with mackerel and have also been biting on trolled Rapalas.

The spring fishing season has struggled against some unsettled weather at times but is continuing to improve. As we get into a milder spring weather pattern heading into the summer months I am thinking that the surface fishing is getting ready to bust wide open. 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 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

Pacific Star photo

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