Great weather brings improved surface fishing

SAN DIEGO—Private boaters in San Diego County recently had things open up to where they are now able to go out fishing on the bays and the ocean with members of the same household and a lot of people have been taking advantage of the newly opened up bays and launch ramps to get out on the water sampling the fishing. Please check local restrictions as to wearing face masks and with regard to the parking of vehicles around launch ramps.

The ocean fishing is picking up on a couple of fronts with bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and yellowtail biting in offshore waters  and with the Coronado Islands producing good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, bonito, calico bass and barracuda. Further north, Catalina Island has been producing good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, white seabass, calico bass and barracuda and San Clemente Island has been productive for a mix of yellowtail, calico bass and barracuda. The red tide conditions along the coast have been improving some and if that trend continues, there is reason to hope for significant improvement in the surface fishing around coastal kelp bed areas sometime soon.

After a 10-day period of scratchy offshore fishing things improved over the past weekend with bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and yellowtail biting around some of the offshore banks below and outside of Los Coronado Islands. The area of the 371 Bank and the Upper Hidden Bank were the best spots over the past weekend with bluefin biting that went to 150 pounds and with good-sized yellowfin tuna biting that were in the 25- to 60-pound range. Most of the yellowtail found around offshore kelp paddies were in the 6- to 12-pound range.

The best fishing around the 371 Bank was for bluefin tuna that went to 150 pounds and this action was being found out a few miles to the west of the 371 Bank while fishing 30 miles 214 degrees from Point Loma. The Upper Hidden Bank was producing yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna and the best zone was spread from 35 to 40 miles 180 to 190 degrees from Point Loma.

There were some tackle buster sized bluefin out to the west of the 371 Bank as one private boater skipper reported going 0 for 6 on bluefin hookups on fish that were in the 120- to 150-pound range. Another private boater skipper fishing the same area reported being able to catch one of the large bluefin out of their their bluefin hookups.

At the Upper Hidden Bank there was a private boater report from a Skipper who was fishing solo and caught bluefin of 120 pounds and 105 pounds along with a couple of yellowfin tuna that were in the 50- to 60-pound range.

Another private boater that fished the Upper Hidden Bank reported catching four of the 30- to 45-pound yellowfin tuna and two of the 8-pound kelp paddie yellowtail. All their tuna action came from long soak drifts with sardines while they were drifting over meter marks. Having a good amount of sardines to throw for chum was helpful in getting a reaction from the fish they were metering under the boat. The water at the Upper Hidden Bank was reported to be a beautiful blue color and was at 66 degrees.

In other offshore areas things were on the scratchy side of things. The past weekend saw some tuna sightings and some bonito biting at the 182 Spot and at the 43 Fathom Spot and there was a private boater Skipper who reported catching two of the 30- to 40-pound bluefin while fishing outside of the 302 Spot.  Schools of bonito have also been found roaming around at areas such as the 9 Mile Bank, the area 4 to 10 miles west of La Jolla and 1 to 4 miles off the coast between Carlsbad and Point Loma.

Meter marks have been the best way to locate the yellowfin with yellowfin also occasionally being found under spots of working tern birds. Bluefin have been found by locating meter marks and spots of breaking fish. Sardines have been effective for bluefin and yellowfin and bluefin have also been biting on jigs that are cast to the spots of breaking fish. Effective jigs include blue and white color and mint color Salas 7X Lights, poppers, Colt Snipers, Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnows and Flat Fall jigs.

The fishing at Los Coronado Islands has been good for a mix of yellowtail, calico bass, bonito and barracuda. North Island has been the best area for the yellowtail with Pukey Point and the Keyhole being the best spots along the weather side of the Island and with the Shack area being the best spot along the lee side of the Island. The Shack is where there used to be a lobster shack for panga fishermen years ago and is just a short way up the inside of the Island from Pukey Point.

At mid-week there was a private boater report from a couple of anglers who fished Los Coronado Islands around North Island and combined to catch six yellowtail, 10 bonito and two calico bass. Most of their action came from slow trolling with sardines in the area of the Shack. Their yellowtail were quality sized fish that were in the 12- to 15-pound range. Another recent private boater report from the lee side of North Island was from a skipper who had caught six yellowtail while trolling with Nomad 30-foot depth range diving plugs.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been slowed by recent red tide conditions but the recent red tide conditions up and down the coast seem less severe than they were a couple of weeks ago. There have been a few thresher sharks and a few yellowtail found outside of La Jolla and the best bet to try and locate some yellows or a thresher has been to try and find some bait. The water tends to clean up once you get out to the 30 to 40 fathom depths and if you can find some bait around the color break that tends to work out the best. Trolled Bait-O-Matics baited with mackerel have been working for the thresher sharks and casting surface iron to a group of yellowtail found working on the surface has been best for a chance at a coastal yellowtail.

Bonito have been roaming around in areas 1 to 4 miles off the San Diego County coast between Point Loma and Carlsbad and if you can locate some bonito there has been fun fishing to be found on fish to 15 pounds. The 9 Mile Bank and the area 4 to 10 miles west of La Jolla have also been holding bonito. The best bets for bonito have been fishing with sardines, chrome jigs, trolled feathers and trolled Rapalas.

Private boater John Carroll of Huachinango fished a recent trip to the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma and reported having some fun fishing on plastics. He said there were lots of short sized calico bass and sand bass biting, which they caught and released and he reported a highlight catch of a legal sized 24.5-inch lingcod. Carroll said the lingcod bit on a Fish Trap swimbait.

At Catalina there has been a chance at yellowtail and white seabass while fishing areas between Church Rock and Salta Verde. Productive spots have been Church Rock, the V’s, Orange Rocks and Salta Verde. In addition to white seabass and yellowtail within this sector, the Silver Canyon and V’s areas have also been producing a few halibut. Along the middle part of the back side of the Island there was a good report from a private boater skipper who got into a good yellowtail bite on 10 pound fish while fishing off Little Harbor.

Live squid has been the best bait at Catalina and there have been squid boats offering squid for sale while anchored near Avalon. Try to raise the squid boats on VHF channels 11 or 72. Some of the mainland bait receivers have had squid available for purchase at times as well.

Over at San Clemente Island there has been a mix of yellowtail, calico bass and barracuda biting for boats fishing spots along the front side of the Island. The stretch between Purse Seine Rock and Gold Bluff has been productive with the White Rock area tending to be the best. Live squid brought over from the squid boats at Catalina or from the mainland bait receivers has been working best for bait.

The spring fishing season is rolling right along and the fishing should keep improving as summer approaches. I hope and pray you are staying healthy, safe and sound. Keep on fishing and be safe!  I hope to see you out on the water sometime 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 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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