COVID-19 crisis keeping most anglers ashore

SAN DIEGO—Most Southern California saltwater anglers have been forced to stay ashore due to regulations in place to help slow and protect against the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. Here in San Diego County the harbors at Mission Bay and Oceanside remain closed and San Diego Bay is closed to all recreational boating activity. The launch ramps at these harbors are all closed as well. My last check in with the Harbor Patrol Office in Dana Point was that their harbor and launch ramp were still open and sure enough, last Saturday some private boaters out of Dana Point Harbor had made the long run and were fishing for bluefin tuna in the offshore waters outside of  San Diego.

With so few private boaters out fishing and with the sportboats tied to the dock as a result of social distance regulations brought about by the COVID-19 crisis the fish reports have been very limited. The few reports I received are from offshore waters where there have been some 30- to 100-pound bluefin tuna biting for boats fishing offshore waters local to San Diego. Spots of breaking fish found under working birds have been producing bluefin for boats fishing 4 to 8 miles west to southwest of North Island and in the deepwater area inside of the 302 Spot.

The bluefin have been biting best on iron that is cast to the spots of breaking fish and there have also been some bluefin reported on sardines and mackerel. Productive jigs have been blue and white or mint color Salas 7X surface iron, Colt Snipers, Flat Fall jigs and Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnows.

All that said, the most recent reports from last Saturday’s fishing (April 11, 2020) were of slow bluefin action. There were several boats out fishing offshore waters outside of San Diego that were working spots such as the 425 Bank, 302 Spot, 224 Spot, 182 Spot and the area 4 to 8 miles west to southwest of North Island. Skippers were finding favorable water conditions with 61-degree clean water in most areas but were reporting that there was nothing much doing in the way of bait, bird life and game fish. There best reports were of tuna meter marks being found outside of the 302 Spot and found up above the 182 Spot but those fish did not want to come up and bite.

One bit of news that might indeed prove to be “fake news” is the past few days have seen some albacore rumors going around. The first rumor I encountered came from a long-time private boater fisherman who I respect. His report was he had talked to someone he knew and respected said he had heard some commercial boats had caught albacore while fishing inside of the 302 Spot and out to the west and southwest of North Island. The next rumor I heard was there were some albacore caught out by the 60 Mile Bank and there were albacore being offered for sale at the weekly Saturday commercial boat fish market called the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market (near Seaport Village in Downtown San Diego). There was yet an additional rumor about albacore being caught inside of San Clemente Island.

I have not been able to confirm any of these rumored reports, but I sure hope one or more of these ends up being true and that we do have albacore returning to our local offshore waters. My general policy regarding albacore rumors was established when I was first starting 976-Bite Fish Reports 28 years ago. I got some advice about albacore rumors that I vividly remember and still follow to this day that came from legendary Capt. Buzz Brizindine of Prowler out of Fisherman’s Landing. His advice was to not to believe second and third hand albacore rumors until an albacore is confirmed to have been caught a sportboat. That has proved to be great advice over the years but the obvious twist in applying this in our current situation is the sportboats are tied to the dock as a result of the social distancing regulations brought about by the COVID-19 health crisis. I hope one or more of these rumors prove to be true! It would sure be fun to have local albacore again!

I almost always encourage people to go fishing but I do not want these reports to encourage anyone to take their boat out and go fishing in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. My feeling is that on many private boats it would be very difficult to adhere to the “social distance” guidelines of keeping 6 feet away from other people. I encourage you to stay home as much as your situation allows and to err on the side of caution in your decision making. Be safe, stay healthy and I hope to see you back out on the water when the Covid-19 crisis is over. I pray that is very soon!

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


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