The offshore fishing continues to grab the headlines during the early summer portion of the 2016 Southern California offshore fishing season. Anglers fishing local offshore waters have been able to target and sometimes catch jumbo, “fish of a lifetime” sized bluefin tuna along with some nice sized yellowfin tuna and yellowtail. Billfish season is also starting to unfold with a few swordfish showing and three marlin caught incidental to tuna fishing at the offshore banks outside of San Diego.
The bluefin tuna continue to amaze with regard to the size of the fish showing and sometimes biting. Catches ranged from 40 to 240-plus pounds, with some reports of bluefin breaking the 300-pound class. The yellowfin tuna have also been quality-sized fish running from 15 to 100 pounds and the kelp paddy catches ranging from 5 to 30 pounds.
There are a lot of bluefin and yellowfin tuna on the offshore fishing grounds but the fish have continued in a pattern of behavior where they aren’t biting well compared to the large volume being seen. Until the fish change their habits and start biting better anglers need to focus on trying to catch a very nice sized tuna or two rather than have expectations of catching a large number of bluefin or yellowfin.
Productive areas for the tuna and kelp paddy yellowtail have been expanding over a wider expanse of ocean, ranging from the 277 Spot off the east end of Catalina on down to the offshore banks outside of the Coronado Islands. The three best areas recently were the 43 Fathom Spot, the Corner and in an area located about half way between the 43 Fathom Spot and San Clemente Island. Other productive spots have been the 302 Spot, 230 Spot, 224 Spot, 182 Spot, 181 Spot, 289 Spot, 9 Mile Bank, 312 Spot and 209 Spot.
Trolling with cedar plugs and Rapalas produces an occasional yellowfin tuna but does not produce much in the way of bluefin activity. The best bets for the bluefin have been trying to get bait or lure to a spot of breaking fish before they sound. Surface iron, poppers and thin metal blade yo-yo style jigs have all been effective for those using jigs. Mackerel have been the best choice for those using live bait with live sardines also producing some action. For those fishing live bait, flylining and slow trolling have been effective methods. Kite fishing has also produced some action while drift fishing with a live mackerel or by trolling Yummy Filers. Of all the choices mentioned above, poppers have been the most popular and effective.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has produced a mixed bag of calico bass, rockfish, sculpin and sand bass. There has also been a chance at scratching out a yellowtail at the upper end of La Jolla. Productive areas for the bass, sculpin and rockfish going from south to north have been the hard bottom to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Dropoff, the Lab, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, Sunset Cliffs, the 270, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia, Carlsbad, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside, the Barn and Box Canyon.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing reports they have had days of good calico bass fishing at the kelp bed areas off Leucadia and Solana Beach. Cacciola also reported they have also seen improved calico bass fishing at the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor. Cacciola reports getting into a good calico bass bite has been very much dependent on water conditions with 68- to 70-degree clean water and a moderate downhill current flow being favorable conditions for finding calico bass action.
The upper end of La Jolla has been the best area for a chance at a coastal yellowtail but the yellowtail bite has been scratchy and slow most days. Look for sonar marks, meter marks or spots of fish up working on the surface. Try sardines, mackerel, yo-yo iron and surface iron for the yellows and a private boater might also want to try slow trolling with nose hooked mackerel or sardines.
The yellowtail bite has been scratchy most days but it has been possible to find a good flurry of yellowtail action at La Jolla as demonstrated by a catch aboard Chubasco II with Chubasco 2 Sportfishing. They had the best yellowtail catch from La Jolla in some time on June 22 when 27 anglers on a half-day-trip caught 55 rockfish, seven lingcod and 15 yellowtail.
Catalina Island has provided good mixed bag surface fishing for bonito, yellowtail and calico bass along with an occasional flurry of barracuda or white seabass action. Live squid has been the best bait at Catalina and the squid have been caught for bait in the V’s area.
The 2016 summer fishing season is unfolding into a memorable year. It is not often we get 240+ pound bluefin tuna off the local coast. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity and give it a try while they are here. 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 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.