SAN DIEGO—Fall fishing is officially underway and it has seen a continuation of the good offshore bites we experienced in the summer. There are still good numbers of jumbo-sized bluefin tuna to 300-plus pounds biting off the backside of San Clemente Island. There is good fishing for 12- to 30-pound yellowfin tuna to go with a mix of 30- to 40-pound bluefin tuna, skipjack, yellowtail and a few Dorado at some of the offshore banks within 40 miles of Point Loma.
The jumbo-sized bluefin that have been biting off the backside of San Clemente Island have been biting best on flying fish that are fished from a kite or a helium filled balloon. Under certain wind conditions, some Skippers have been using rigs utilizing both a kite and helium filled balloon at the same time. The jumbo-sized bluefin off the backside of San Clemente Island have been found in a lot of places, including Desperation Reef, the 86 Fathom Spot, the 81 Fathom Spot, the 57 Fathom Spot and outside of the stretch ranging from Lost Point to Seal Cove. Of all the areas mentioned, the region of the 57 Fathom Spot has been the most consistent.
In addition to kite fished flying fish and helium balloon fished flying fish there has also been occasional jumbo-sized bluefin action reported on kite trolled Yummy Flyers and balloon fished mackerel. Most of the bluefin schools are being located by finding spots of breezing fish, meter marks or sonar marks. The evening hours before dark tend to be the best time of day.
Private boater Doug Augustine of Double Trouble fished a recent trip to San Clemente Island and reported he was returning home to San Diego from the Desperation Reef area with an estimated 250-plus pound bluefin tuna. Augustine caught the big bluefin while fishing with flying fish with a helium-filled balloon. The rig also produced additional action for them as he said they hooked and lost another big bluefin and had a couple of additional blowups and bites while fishing with flying fish from a helium-filled balloon.
Private boater Floyd Sparks of Tuna Kahuna fished a recent trip to the Desperation Reef area off the backside of San Clemente Island and reported catching a jumbo-sized bluefin maxing out at 318 pounds. Sparks said the jumbo bluefin bit shortly before dark while fishing the Desperation Reef area and reported they had three or four other chances in the way of blowups and bites. They had all their action while fishing with flying fish from a setup utilizing both a kite and a helium-filled balloon.
Private boater Capt. Bob Woodard, Jr. of Dropback fished a recent trip out at San Clemente Island and reported catching four bluefin tuna. Three of the four bluefin were in the 60-pound class and were caught on poppers cast to spots of breaking fish that they found in an area about 12 miles before getting to San Clemente Island while heading out from Point Loma.
Once they got to San Clemente Island they also found success with the jumbo-sized bluefin. Woodard said they had two good chances on the jumbo-sized bluefin and that Steve Belt caught a jumbo bluefin that they were estimating at 180 pounds. Woodard reported the fish bit late in the day and they boated it right at dark.
Private boater Chris Hull of Fish Tales reported the Fish Tails team caught a jumbo-sized bluefin tuna while fishing off the backside of San Clemente Island. Hull said Brian Fergerson was the angler and the fish taped out to weigh 184 pounds. The fish bit on a kite fished rigged flying fish while fishing outside of China Point, a short way to the west of the 81 Fathom Spot, which is located at 60 miles 262 degrees from Point Loma.
The yellowfin tuna bite has been very good at times but the past few days has seen the bite slip a bit from the near limit to limit levels that have sometimes been biting. Most of the yellowfin tuna have been running from 12 to 30 pounds and boats fishing the yellowfin zone have also been picking up some pretty good numbers of skipjack, finding occasional action on what are mostly 30- to 40-pound bluefin tuna and are also finding an occasional kelp paddie that produces some yellowtail or Dorado.
The areas producing most of the yellowfin have been the 9 Mile Bank, the end of the Ridge below the 182 Spot, the Corner, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 371 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank and the area about half way between the 371 Bank and the 390 Bank. Fishing on Sept. 29 saw the yellowfin bite slip some in sloppy weather conditions. There was still some good fishing to be found despite the sloppy weather as Vendetta out of H&M Landing had 11 anglers on a full-day trip catch 30 yellowfin and 19 skipjack.
The yellowfin have been located by finding yellowfin trolling strikes, skipjack trolling strikes, kelp paddies, spots of breezing fish, porpoise schools, sonar marks and meter marks. Sardines have been working best for yellowfin, yellowtail, skipjack, Dorado and the 30- to 40-pound bluefin.
The marlin fishing has been scratchy overall but recent days have seen two marlin caught by boats fishing for tuna in the area of the 9 Mile Bank and at the end of the Ridge below the 182 Spot. In recent days the marlin fishing in the Catalina region has been slow.
The Avalon Billfish Challenge was held on Sept. 23 and 24 and there was action on both deep drop swordfish and marlin for boats fishing off the backside of Santa Cruz Island in the Yellow Banks region. There were six boats participating in the tournament and they accounted for three marlins caught and released, five swordfish caught and another non-qualifying swordfish being caught and released. Ruckus had a great day of fishing on the second day of the tournament in catching two swordfish and catching and releasing a marlin. Most if not all of the swordfish action came while using the deep drop method where baits are usually drifted at depths between 900 and 1,100 feet below the surface.
There has been a bit of news coming from Los Coronado Islands with the Rockpile area producing pretty good surface fishing action for a mix of yellowtail, barracuda, bonito and calico bass. The fishing for rockfish has also been good around Los Coronado Islands and productive areas have been the South Kelp Ridge while fishing in 25 to 40 fathoms of water and at the hard bottom areas to the north, the northwest and the northeast of North Island while fishing in 20 to 45 fathoms of water.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast continues to be good for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, reds, rockfish, whitefish and sculpin and there has also been a chance at catching a bonus lingcod, halibut or yellowtail.
The best zone for a chance at scratching out a yellowtail has been at the upper end of La Jolla. I received one report from Floyd Sparks of Tuna Kahuna who was fishing off the upper end of La Jolla and seeing occasional spots of good sized yellowtail that were up working bait on the surface. At the time of his report Sparks had not been able to get the yellows to bite but was still seeing spots of yellowtail and trying to get them to cooperate.
Calico bass continue to provide good surface fishing action in kelp bed areas up and down much of the San Diego County coast but the overall bite has been declining some when compared with the fishing of several weeks ago. Some of the more productive areas for calicos have been the Point Loma Kelp Beds, the kelp at the upper end of La Jolla, the kelp bed areas between Solana Beach and South Carlsbad, the Barn Kelp, Yellowtail Kelp and the kelp off Box Canyon.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reported they have been finding good numbers of calico bass biting at kelp bed areas between South Carlsbad and Solana Beach. He said the water temperature where the calicos are biting remains warm at 72 to 73.5 degrees. Cacciola’s added most of the calicos are short-sized fish and must be released but there are usually also some keeper-sized calicos within their catch. In addition to the calico bass, the kelp bed areas are also producing some nice sized sheephead along with some whitefish, sculpin and rockfish.
Some of the Oceanside Sea Center boats, according to Cacciola, have been fishing hard bottom areas for rockfish instead of fishing the kelp beds. He said there has been good rockfish fishing to be found at hard bottom areas both above and below Oceanside Harbor and noted the Box Canyon area has been producing well.
In addition to the kelp beds, hard bottom and structure spots have also been producing some bass and sculpin with productive places being the Imperial Beach Pipeline, hard bottom spots between the Imperial Beach Pipeline and the Mexico border, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.
Rockfish are a significant part of the coastal fishing picture with recent reports of good rockfish catches coming from hard bottom areas around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank at Point Loma, the upper end of La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Del Mar and Box Canyon.
The fall fishing season is upon us but it still seems a lot like summer with all the good fishing going on. The amazing thing is the good fun fishing we are enjoying might just get even better if the fish group up and go on feeding frenzies like they are known to do ahead of migrating to warmer waters for the winter months. 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 email@example.com.