By: Bob Vanian
San Diego area anglers often look to Los Coronados islands for the first signs of the awakening of the spring surface fishing season. This year, the Coronados are providing a pleasant early surprise — with a good number of large yellowtail showing and biting for boats fishing at a few different spots around the islands.
A large percentage of the yellowtail have been running in the 20- to 30-pound class, and most of the sportboat captains have been suggesting that anglers bring a 40-pound-test outfit, to allow them a reasonable chance of successfully handling the bigger fish they might hook.
Some of the best recent sportboat counts: San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing took 33 anglers on a three-quarter-day trip, and they caught 54 yellowtail. Malihini out of H&M Landing had a three-quarter-day trip with 27 anglers who caught 28 yellowtail, 26 rockfish and 1 lingcod. Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing posted a three-quarter-day-trip count of 21 yellowtail and eight rockfish for the 34 anglers aboard.
The most recent hot bite area has been at the South Kelp and South Kelp Ridge areas below Coronado del Sur (South Island), in 18 to 25 fathoms of water. The Middle Grounds region had previously been the hot bite area.
Skippers have been drifting on meter marks and catching yellowtail on yo-yoed iron, surface iron, sardines and small mackerel. Yo-yoed iron has been the best bet for yellowtail — but when the fish respond to chummed sardines and come up to the top, surface iron has also been effective.
Water temperatures have edged up to around 60 degrees, and that is warm enough to provide hope that the fish will hold in the area and settle in for a while.
Private boater Sam Minervini of Sailfish reported catching a 25-pound yellowtail on a recent trip to the South Kelp Ridge area. Minervini first checked the Middle Grounds and, after finding the fishing to be slow, he headed down to the South Kelp Ridge.
The move was a good one, as he located yellowtail — but he was having trouble getting them to bite on iron or sardines. What eventually led to his 25-pound yellowtail was catching a mackerel on a piece of squid, putting it on a hook and using the mackerel for live bait.
Private boater Capt. Bob Woodard of Christina Lynn fished a recent trip to Los Coronados islands and found yellowtail biting at the Middle Grounds. Woodard reported that he and his group hooked six of the big yellowtail and boated three. All three yellowtail were caught on yo-yoed iron: Harry Okuda caught two, and Robb Lane caught one. All their fish were hooked between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.
La Jolla is another area that has been providing anglers a chance at a yellowtail. The zone below the lower end of La Jolla has been best, and this is where there have been occasional showings of breezing yellowtail.
The yellows have been showing over the hard-bottom area located below the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, in 18 to 30 fathoms of water. Another area to keep an eye on for showings of breezing yellowtail is outside the upper end of La Jolla, in 18- to 25-fathom depths.
Surface iron is a good way to go for the yellowtail at La Jolla, if you can get the jig to the breezing fish before they sound. If you locate a meter mark, the best technique is to drift while using sardines or yo-yoed iron.
New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing found some biting yellowtail on a couple of recent half-day trips. The day the yellows bit for them the best was March 21. They had 11 anglers on the morning half-day trip catch one yellowtail, one whitefish, 11 reds and 32 rockfish. On their afternoon half-day trip that same day, they had 13 anglers catching five yellowtail, one sculpin and 10 rockfish.
The remainder of the fishing along the San Diego area coast has been productive for a mix of rockfish, bass and sculpin. Some of the better spots for rockfish include the Whistler Buoy and Dropoff at Point Loma, the hard-bottom area below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia and Box Canyon.
Anglers looking for rockfish around Los Coronados islands have also been reporting success. There has been good deepwater bottomfishing reported at the lower end of the 9-Mile Bank while fishing on the Mexican side of the border, in 60- to 90-fathom depths.
Hard-bottom areas north of Coronado del Norte (North Island) have also been productive, at 25- to 40-fathom depths. Another productive rockfish area has been the outer ridges stretching from outside of the Middle Grounds down to the South Kelp Ridge, in 25- to 45-fathom depths.
The spring surface fishing season has arrived early. Let’s hope it is the start of what will be a banner 2013 surface fishing season.
Bob Vanian is the voice, writer and researcher of the San Diego-based Internet fish report service 976-Bite at 976bite.com. Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service over the phone at (619) 226-8218. He always welcomes your fish reports at that same phone number, or via email at email@example.com