There’s Plenty of Fish to Catch in the Holiday Season

By: Bob Vanian

While much of the country is experiencing snow and extreme cold, we here in Southern California have been blessed with recent weather conditions that have been sunny and mild. We have had many days of fine December weather — and anglers who have gone out have been finding some fun fishing on a variety of good-eating fish.

It has been mostly rockfish that have been biting, but there have also been a few lingcod, calico bass, sand bass, halibut, sculpin and sheephead in the mix. As an extra added bonus, there are some big thresher sharks biting — and every once in a while, someone finds a school of yellowtail off the La Jolla area and catches a good-sized yellowtail.

There is little in the way of news coming in from Los Coronados, as very few boats have been crossing into Mexican waters to fish around the islands. The Mexican authorities continue to enforce the FMM Immigration Form (sometimes called the “Mexican visa”) requirement.

Boats fishing out around Los Coronados islands have been told to return to United States waters if they do not have an FMM Immigration Form, passports and Mexican fishing licenses for each person aboard. You also need to have the boat’s registration papers, an FCC Ships Station License for your VHF radio and an FCC Operator’s License for the operator of the radio.

Fortunately, boaters can now obtain the required FMM Immigration Form online — at My guess is that more people will likely start fishing around Los Coronados beginning Jan. 1, 2014 — the date that the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure goes into effect on the U.S. side of the border.

Boats fishing hard-bottom and structure areas up and down the San Diego County coast have been doing well on an assortment of rockfish and have also been picking up some bonus lingcod.

Some of the trips fishing out of San Diego Bay have been heading down the coast to fish the Imperial Beach Pipeline, which has been producing an assortment of rockfish. The International Reef has also been producing a few rockfish, for anglers fishing just above the Mexican border.

At Point Loma, productive areas for bottomfishing have included the hard-bottom spots around the Whistler Buoy, the Point Loma Pipeline and outside of the Green Tank.

The Point Loma Pipeline has been one of the best spots for rockfish, for anglers fishing in 30 to 40 fathoms. A private boater recently reported catching and releasing a 10-pound calico bass and a 20-pound-class sheephead while fishing in shallower water a short distance outside of the kelp line.

Some of the boats fishing out of Mission Bay have been doing well on rockfish off Point Loma, and they have also been picking up rockfish at the Jetty Kelp area off Mission Bay, outside the upper end of La Jolla and off Del Mar. A good depth range has been 30 to 40 fathoms.

As anglers continue up the coast, there have been rockfish biting outside of Solana Beach, Leucadia and Box Canyon, in similar depths.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star, out of Helgren’s Sportfishing, reported that on a recent trip, anglers aboard found good fishing for an assortment of rockfish and some nice-size sheephead while working hard-bottom areas outside of Del Mar. Their count for the trip was 16 sheephead, one sand bass and 70 rockfish.

The sheephead were of noteworthy size, and most were in the 5- to 7-pound range. Cacciola said they have been fishing with live squid and with fresh frozen squid that they have been jigging during the daylight hours off Leucadia.

Some San Diego County areas that have produced a few bass include the edges of the kelp by the Green Tank, the hard-bottom area to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the hard-bottom area located below the Marine Life Protection Act-mandated closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla and the artificial reefs outside Oceanside.

There have been a few halibut biting, too. The best zone for a chance at a halibut in the San Diego area has been while drifting along sandy-bottom areas next to structure outside of Pacific Beach and Mission Beach. A productive depth range has been in 14 to 20 fathoms of water.

Live squid have been good bait for rockfish and bass fishing, and the best baits for halibut have been live squid, sardines and small mackerel. Squid has been available to be caught for bait at night, and sometimes during the day. There have been squid reported outside of the Lab at Point Loma, as well as outside of Pacific Beach, Leucadia, the Academy at Carlsbad, the Barn and San Onofre.

Some 100- to 150-pound thresher sharks have been holding around the bait in some of the spots where squid and mackerel have been found, up and down the coast. The threshers have been associated with the bait, and have generally been found in 15 to 20 fathoms of water.

Threshers have been biting best along the stretch of coast between the Barn and San Mateo Point. There is also a chance of locating a thresher at some of the other areas where squid have been reported up and down the coast. Cacciola reported seeing a thresher shark during the early morning hours off Leucadia, while Sea Star was fishing for squid to use for bait.

There have also been occasional showings of yellowtail reported outside of the upper end of La Jolla, for boats fishing in 20 to 30 fathoms of water. They have been quality-size 30-pound-class yellowtail, but it has been hard to get them to bite.

Every once in a while, someone is in the right spot at the right time, finds a group of fish that stays up on the surface for a while and is able to hook one of the big yellows on surface iron. One private boater recently cast surface iron into a spot of breezing yellowtail, then hooked and caught a 41-pound white seabass.

The busy holiday season is in full swing, but there is good reason to spend a portion of the season out on the water, enjoying the nice weather and catching some fish — if you can.

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 976-Bite at Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service over the phone at (619) 226-8218. He always welcomes your fish reports at that same phone number, or via email at

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