Start of 2016 fishing season produces yellowtail and rain

Southern California anglers enjoyed plenty of great fishing during the current El Niño season. The 2014 and 2015 fishing seasons saw great fishing in the unusually warm water with super exotic species such as wahoo, blue marlin, shortbill spearfish and black marlin invading local offshore waters and making their presence known. Anglers are hoping for more of the same in 2016 but are currently putting up with several days of stormy weather during the first part of the New Year. No one is complaining too much, though, as the recent series of weather systems has brought drought stricken California some necessary rain.

The past few days brought some nice weather conditions and anglers were anxious to get back on the water to see what might be around and biting once the rainy clouds cleared. What was most noteworthy were the catches of nice sized yellowtail made by boats fishing off Punta Colnett, at Los Coronado Islands and at spots along the San Diego County coast.

Southern California anglers need to be aware of the turn of the New Year brought about the annual 2-month rockfish/groundfish closure and the end of the sculpin closure. These regulations apply to those fishing in United States waters; the fishing for rockfish/groundfish and sculpin remains open for those fishing in Mexican waters.

Anglers traveling into Mexican waters to fish Punta Colnett on 1.5-day sportboat trips have been reporting some great fishing with a mix of yellowtail, lingcod, reds and other assorted rockfish biting. Private boater Harry Okuda of Alfresco III reported about fishing on a recent 1.5-day trip aboard the sportboat Eclipse out of Seaforth Sportfishing. The 23 anglers aboard caught 76 yellowtail, 18 lingcod and 80 rockfish.

Okuda and his son, Harry Okuda, Jr., were together aboard the trip and Harry, Sr. reported they each caught limits of quality sized yellowtail along with an assortment of bottom fish that included lingcod, reds, starries and bank perch. Okuda said his son had a red hot touch in catching the yellowtail while using yo-yoed iron and caught the jackpot fish.

The yellows were mostly 15- to 25-pound fish and were reported to be biting best on yo-yoed iron. Okuda said a Salas 7X heavy jig in scrambled egg color was working best. There were also yellowtail bites for those fishing with mackerel on a dropper loop rig. Most of their fishing was done in what Okuda estimated to be in 30 to 40 fathoms of water. The big lingcod on the trip was estimated to be up around 15 pounds and their catch of bottom fish also included some nice sized reds up to 5 pounds.

I have no reports about any sportboat trips fishing at Los Coronado Islands since the most recent series of storms passed through; the only recent reports were from a couple of private boaters fishing the North Island area in the nice weather a couple of days ago who were reporting catching a mix of yellowtail and assorted rockfish.

Before the recent series of storms Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing fished a three-quarter day trip to Los Coronado Islands on January 2, 2016 and had 10 anglers return with 16 yellowtail, 2 lingcod, 1 bonito and 3 rockfish. Pacific Voyager out of Seaforth Sportfishing was the last sportboat trip to Los Coronado Islands I know of and fished a three-quarter day trip on January 3, 2016; the 13 anglers aboard caught 6 yellowtail, 65 whitefish, 1 sheephead, 2 sand bass, 2 rockfish and 2 bonito.

The best bet for a chance at a yellowtail has been to fish the meter marks or sonar marks you might find in the hard bottom areas to the north and the northwest of North Island using yo-yoed iron or a sardine fished on a dropper loop rig. The yellowtail anglers are reeling are mostly between 15 and 20 pounds biting at hard bottom areas around North Island. There have also been occasional flurries of action on smaller 3- to 8-pound yellowtail biting while fishing spots inside of South Island.

Boats out looking for yellowtail along the San Diego County coast after the recent series of storms were pleasantly surprised to find some yellowtail biting in the La Jolla region. In recent weeks, there have been occasional flurries of yellowtail action reported by boats fishing hard bottom spots up and down the San Diego County coast with productive spots being at hard bottom areas outside of Box Canyon, Leucadia, Del Mar, Torrey Pines, La Jolla, Mission Bay, Point Loma and Imperial Beach.

The best yellowtail bite area after the passing of the recent storms has been for boats fishing three areas located in the La Jolla region. 

The remainder of the San Diego County area coastal fishing has been productive for good numbers of a mixed bag of bass and sculpin, along with an occasional halibut.

With the rockfish/groundfish closure in effect for anglers fishing in Southern California waters anglers choosing to stay and fish in Southern California waters have been focusing on fishing for yellowtail, bass and sculpin. The bass and sculpin have been biting at hard bottom and structure spots and productive areas along the San Diego County coast have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the International Reef, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy No. 3 at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the sunken NEL tower off Mission Beach, the Yukon Shipwreck off Mission Beach, the hard bottom along the edges of the kelp beds at La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and the hard bottom outside of the edges of the kelp at the Barn and San Onofre.

The 2016 fishing season is underway and if you check the weather forecast and select the good weather days for your fishing, there is some unseasonably good fishing to be found very early into the New Year. 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 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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