Fun fishing to be had in the middle of winter

SAN DIEGO—The middle part of January has seen what have mostly been good weather conditions. Southern California saltwater anglers have been taking advantage of the good weather days to get out on the water and sample what has been good wintertime fishing. There have still been occasional weather systems passing through and anglers and Skippers are advised to always check the latest marine weather forecast before going boating or fishing.

Some of the best fishing was found by boats at the high spot area down the Mexican coast, outside of Punta Colnett. Sportboats have been fishing 1.5-day trips to Punta Colnett and have been doing well on a mix of reds, rockfish, lingcod, bonito and yellowtail. The past weekend saw very good fishing for reds, rockfish and lingcod but the yellowtail and bonito fishing tailed off and was scratchy.

As an example of the most recent fishing, Fisherman’s Landing had both Tomahawk and Pacific Queen fishing 1.5-day trips to the Punta Colnett region on Jan. 18. Pacific Queen had 33 anglers catch 148 reds, 130 rockfish, one yellowtail and 10 lingcod. Tomahawk had 16 anglers catch 95 reds, 74 rockfish 21 lingcod and one bonito. Relentless out of H&M Landing fished a 1.5-day trip on Jan. 16 and they had outstanding lingcod fishing as 11 anglers caught 45 lingcod and 65 rockfish.

The yellowtail and the lingcod being caught on the Punta Colnett area trips have been going up into the 20-plus pound class. Best bet for yellowtail off Punta Colnett has been to look for meter marks, sonar marks and spots of working birds. Yo-yo iron is usually the best way to go once yellowtails are located and a sardine or mackerel fished on a dropper loop rig can also be effective. Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X or 7X jigs in blue and white, scrambled egg, Dorado and sardine colors.

Boats fishing for reds and rockfish in the region of Los Coronado Islands continue to do very well on reds and rockfish and have also been catching an occasional bonus lingcod. Productive areas include hard bottom areas located to the north, northeast and northwest of North Island, while working in 25 to 55 fathoms of water. Also productive has been fishing the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank while keeping on the Mexico side of the border and fishing in the 60 to 80 fathom depths. Another productive rockfish zone around Los Coronado Islands has been fishing spots along the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in the 20 to 40 fathom depths.

            New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been running daily three-quarter day trips to target the bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands. As an example of the recent fishing, on their most recent trip they found limit fishing and 13 anglers returned with 100 assorted rockfish and 30 reds.

The deep drop fishing for swordfish has been winding down with few boats out giving it a try and without much to report in the way of recent action. It seems like there is still a chance at hooking a swordfish based on an occasional probable swordfish bite being reported but the recent swordfish fishing has been slow. I believe there were 2 or 3 swordfish boated during the first 10 to 12 days of January but to not know of any others that have been caught since that time.

The main areas that have been targeted by those trying the deep drop method for swordfish are the drop-off shelf outside of Newport Beach, the area of the drop-off below and outside of the oil rigs in the Catalina Channel, the Avalon Bank, the Rock Quarry at Catalina, the 152 Spot off the East End of Catalina, the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank and the nearby 178 Spot.

An ongoing reminder to anglers is the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure on the U.S. side of the Mexico border went into effect on New Year’s Day and that the closure will remain in effect until March 1. With the rockfish/groundfish closure currently in effect, Southern California anglers fishing in US waters continue to focus their efforts on species that are still open to fishing such as sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, perch, halibut and yellowtail. The actual fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, perch and sculpin. There has also been an occasional bonus halibut biting along with an occasional flurry of yellowtail action.

Productive areas for bass and sculpin have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom areas to the southeast of 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 Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp while fishing below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.

There have been a few halibut biting out in 30 fathoms of water outside of the Yukon shipwreck off Mission Beach and in the area of the sunken NEL Tower outside of Mission Beach. There have also been reports of some halibut biting in San Diego Bay.

The showings of yellowtail along the San Diego County coast have been erratic but there have been occasional showings of yellowtail over the past few weeks. These showings of yellowtail have been found in the area ranging from the Whistler Buoy off Point Loma on up to the ridge off Del Mar. The best area within this stretch over the past couple of weeks has been in the area below and outside of the MLPA closure zone that is located off the lower end of La Jolla.

The 2020 saltwater fishing season is well underway and the good weather days have provided anglers a chance to get out on the water and sample what has been good wintertime fishing. 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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