SAN DIEGO — Southern California anglers did not have to wait long for the 2019 offshore fishing season to begin as bluefin tuna and yellowtail are still hanging out in local waters. Anglers have been having to dodge a steady series of weather systems bringing rain, wind and high seas but the good weather days in between those systems have provided opportunities for anglers to fish offshore waters and have a chance at catching bluefin tuna, skipjack and kelp paddie yellowtail. I have no recent reports of marlin activity but with water as warm as 63 degrees offshore, it would not surprise me that much to get news of marlin activity.
Most of the bluefin have been in the 20- to 60-pound class and they have been popping up in spots ranging from the deep water outside of the oil rigs in the Catalina Channel all the way down to the 9 Mile Bank outside of Point Loma. Within that rather large zone, the best areas have been in the deep water off the oilrigs in the Catalina Channel, 2 to 5 miles off the coast between Newport Beach and Crystal Cove as well as 2 to 5 miles off the coast between Box Canyon and the Carlsbad Canyon.
Skippers have been locating bluefin tuna by finding spots of breaking fish, breezing fish, foaming fish, sonar marks or meter marks. Once located, anglers have had success while fishing with sardines, mackerel, Flat Fall jigs and surface iron.
There has been a chance at locating kelp paddie yellowtail throughout the same large expanse of ocean from the Catalina Channel on down to the 9 Mile Bank. The yellowtails have been ranging a bit further off the coast than the bluefin with the yellowtail being found out to about as far as 12 miles off the coast. The best sector for the kelp paddie yellowtail has been for boats fishing outside of the stretch between Box Canyon and the Golf Balls above Oceanside.
Southern California skipjack in January has also been a reality, with a couple of the species to 12 pounds recently being reported caught aboard private boats. The fish were caught while trolling the offshore waters outside of Camp Pendleton.
There has not been much news coming from Los Coronado Islands lately with the 2 most recent sportboat trips that I know of fishing the Islands over a week ago. At that time, the reports were there was good fishing with a mix of bonito, yellowtail, reds and assorted rockfish biting.
Malihini out of H&M Landing fished Los Coronado Islands on Dec. 29, 2018 and had a fish count of 25 anglers on a full-day trip catching 200 rockfish, 35 reds, 5 calico bass, 1 sand bass, 1 sheephead, 3 lingcod, 18 bonito and 1 yellowtail. San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing fished Los Coronado Islands on Dec. 30, 2018 and had a fish count of 27 anglers catching 100 reds, 33 bonito and 34 yellowtails.
Fisherman’s Landing had Pacific Queen fishing a 1.5-day trip with 32 anglers who caught 175 rockfish, 130 reds, 12 yellowtails and 3 lingcod. Point Loma Sportfishing had the New Lo-An fishing a 1.5-day trip with 23 anglers that caught 67 yellowtails, 115 reds and 48 whitefish.
Anglers fishing on the United States side of the Mexico border need to keep in mind the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure went into effect on Jan. 1. Anglers seeking to fish for the rockfish/groundfish species that are covered by the closure need to go to Mexican waters to fish for those species during the closure period.
The fishing along the San Diego area coast is providing a mix of sand bass, calico bass and sculpin and has also been producing a few halibut and bonito. There are occasional sightings of yellowtail and anglers are hoping that a wintertime yellowtail bite will develop sometime soon. An area where there have been occasional showings of yellowtail has been at the rockfish grounds outside of Box Canyon.
Hard bottom and structure areas have been best for the sand bass, calico bass and sculpin and the best areas for a chance at finding bonito action have been while fishing outside of Imperial Beach, by the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, outside of the Green Tank at Point Loma, outside of Point Loma College and outside of the upper end of La Jolla.
There have been a few halibut biting in coastal areas. Some productive halibut areas include the sandy bottom near the Aliso Pipeline off South Laguna Beach, the sandy bottom off South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower located outside of Mission Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck located outside of Mission Beach, San Diego Bay and while fishing sandy bottom areas outside of the Imperial Beach Pier.
The 2019 fishing season has arrived and has already produced catches that include bluefin tuna, skipjack and yellowtail. It is important to watch the weather closely and to pick the good weather days to go out and do your fishing, but the good weather days have been providing a chance at having a fun day out on the water and catching some fish. 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.