End of Year Report: Bluefin and Yellowfin Still Biting

SAN DIEGO—After a recent drop in the offshore fishing for bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna during the middle part of December, one might logically think the 2019 offshore tuna fishing season was over. That would have been an incorrect thought, as recent days have seen the bite rally and provide good tuna fishing.

The weekend ahead of Christmas saw Mustang out of H&M Landing fish overnight trips on Saturday and Sunday and what they found was very good fishing for bluefin tuna, with a scattering of yellowfin tuna. Ollie at H&M Landing reports Mustang had 30 anglers catch 23 of the 50- to 80-pound sized bluefin tuna and two of the 25 to 40-pound yellowfin tuna on Dec. 21. On Sunday the report was Mustang caught limits of 25- to 40-pound bluefin tuna and had a total catch of 30 anglers catching 60 bluefin tuna and six yellowfin tuna.

Sunday’s fishing also saw Tomahawk out of Fisherman’s Landing out fishing and they posted a fish count of 28 bluefin tuna, ranging in size from 70 to 90 pounds. Fisherman’s Landing reported the bluefin caught on Tomahawk were biting on flylined sardines that were fished on live bait outfits with 50- and 60-pound test fluorocarbon leaders.

The unconfirmed information about the location of the recent catches of tuna is while fishing 35 to 50 miles southwesterly from Point Loma in the region of the Butterfly Bank and the 390 Bank. The water out that way is still relatively warm and running at 63 degrees.

Also highlighting the offshore fishing circuit has been the deep drop fishing for swordfish where there has been some action reported from two primary areas. The deep drop swordfish action is not as good as it was a few weeks ago but there are still some swordfish around and biting.

The best zone has been for boats fishing the drop-off shelf off Newport Beach and the other main productive region has been while fishing around the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank and the nearby 178 Spot. Over the past weekend, there were reports about a swordfish being caught from each of these zones. Skippers have been drifting areas in 150 to 300 fathoms of water and fishing their baits at around 900 feet below the surface. Large frozen squid have been the best bait with live mackerel also producing occasional action.

No boats fished at Los Coronado Islands since Dec. 14, when there was good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, bonito, calico bass and an assortment of bottom fish species. The fish counts from Dec. 14 start with Vendetta out of H&M Landing. The full-day trip with 21 anglers returned with 65 bonito, 20 sheephead, 20 rockfish, 10 calico bass and five sculpin. Grande out of H&M Landing also fished a full-day trip with 21 anglers who caught 39 yellowtail, 55 bonito and 80 rockfish.

At last report there were small bonito biting around North Island as well as some larger bonito and calico bass biting at spots around South Island. There were also some bonito and yellowtail biting in the region of the Rockpile and below. Good areas for rockfish have been while fishing hard bottom areas to the northwest, north and northeast of North Island in the 25 to 45 fathom depths as well as along the ridges ranging from the South Kelp Ridge to the Rockpile in the 20 to 40 fathom depths.

For those fishing along the San Diego County coast, the past couple of weeks have seen occasional flurries of yellowtail action found off the stretch of coast between the upper end of La Jolla and the Green Tank at Point Loma while fishing in 18 to 25 fathoms of water. The bite has been erratic from day to day but fish have been popping up and biting from time to time. In recent days, the yellowtail fishing has been scratchy with the most recent report of significant yellowtail action coming from the fishing on Dec. 18, when New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing had a morning half-day trip with 14 anglers catch seven yellowtail, two whitefish and five rockfish. Most of the yellowtail found biting along the coast are good-sized fish, running from 18 to 25 pounds.

As an example of the most recent fishing, a private boater reported hooking and losing a large yellowtail while slow trolling live baits off the upper end of La Jolla last weekend. Another recent private boater report was of metering yellowtail that did not want to bite while fishing off the Green Tank area of Point Loma.

The yellowtail off the coast have been inconsistent in showing and biting from day to day but a definite pattern has been that the morning hours have been when most of the yellows have been located and caught. Look for meter marks, sonar marks and spots of fish up under working birds to try and locate yellowtail. Specific productive areas where yellowtail have been popping up over the past couple of weeks have been while fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla, the lower end of La Jolla, Mission Bay, Point Loma College and the Green Tank.

If you are fortunate enough to be at the right spot at the right time and locate some yellowtail, best bets have been yo-yo iron and surface iron with sardines and mackerel also producing some action. On Dec. 18, Seaforth Sportfishing reported yo-yo iron was what was what was working best for the seven yellowtail caught on the New Seaforth’s morning half-day trip.

The remainder of the fishing along the San Diego County coast has been productive for a mix of reds, rockfish, sculpin, bass, sheephead and whitefish. There have also been a few halibut biting out in 30 fathoms of water outside of the Yukon shipwreck off Mission Beach.

Anglers need to keep in mind is that the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure in California waters goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. During the two-month closure period, anglers will need to fish in Mexican waters to target the rockfish/groundfish that are covered by the closure.

Most of the coastal fishing for bass, sculpin, reds, rockfish, sheephead and whitefish is being done at hard bottom and structure spots. Productive areas have been at the International Reef, the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom areas around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #5 at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank, The 270, the upper end of La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Del Mar, Leucadia, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.

The last chapter of the 2019 offshore fishing season is still being written with bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna still biting in local offshore waters. With bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna still biting offshore, it looks like the 2019 season might well roll right over into the 2020 season come New Years Day. I hope you have a chance to get out fishing and get in on the fun wintertime action be it fishing offshore, at the local Islands or along the coast! 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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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