By: Bob Vanian
Anglers fishing the Southern California coast during January and February have to operate under the challenge of fishing for species that are not closed to fishing by the annual rockfish/groundfish closure.
Among the species that remain available are sand bass, calico bass and sculpin. Other realistic possibilities to add as bonus catches include yellowtail, white seabass and halibut.
The beginning of this year’s two-month rockfish/groundfish closure offered a pleasant surprise, as the first few days of January saw a major influx of Humboldt squid into San Diego and Orange County waters. This is another species that remains open to fishing during the rockfish/groundfish closure period.
Humboldt squid have been providing some outstanding action, and they have very nicely picked up the slack caused by the closure.
Anglers most often fish for Humboldt squid in the twilight evening hours and during the dark, but there has also been some action reported during daytime. The squid caught off Southern California have mostly been in the 8- to 15-pound size range — and when the bite is on, anglers have been able to catch a bunch in just a short amount of fishing time, while using squid jigs.
Those going squid fishing should dress warmly, to cope with the cold temperatures we have been having. It is also important to have a protective outer layer of clothing to keep you dry when the squid start squirting water and ink around.
In what can often be frantic and frenzied action, the squid are coming aboard quickly — and there can be times when water and ink are squirting everywhere. Catching squid can be lots of fun, but can also result in a big mess. Keep in mind when you are selecting clothing that what you are wearing could well end up covered in squid ink.
San Diego County sportboat landings have all been offering fishing trips specifically targeting Humboldt squid. When they find a good bite, they have been returning with counts of 10 or more Humboldt squid per angler.
There is no limit on Humboldt squid catches in California waters, but please respect the ocean and do not take more than you can use.
The current hotspots for catching Humboldt squid in the San Diego region include the lower portion of the 9-Mile Bank, for anglers fishing on the California side of the Mexican border. Anglers need to keep
in mind that Mexican sportfishing regulations do not allow the capture of mollusks or crustaceans.
In the North San Diego County region, the stretch of coast between Oceanside and Point San Mateo has also been a productive zone, for anglers fishing out in 80 to 120 fathoms of water. The best specific areas within that stretch have been outside of Oceanside Harbor, outside of the Hovercraft Station and outside of the Border Check Station.
Humboldt squid have been working up the line, and have also been reported off Dana Point and Newport Beach, outside of the oil rigs in the Catalina Channel and off Huntington Beach.
Aside from Humboldt squid, good weather days can offer some productive fishing for what has mostly been a mix of sand bass, calico bass and sculpin. There have also been a few halibut biting, but it has been pretty tough fishing for yellowtail and white seabass.
Calico bass, sand bass and sculpin have been biting at hard-bottom and structure spots up and down the San Diego County coast — and the sandy bottom adjacent to the hard-bottom spots and structure provides the best chance for finding halibut.
Some of the best areas have included the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the kelp stringers off Imperial Beach, the hard-bottom area to the northwest and southwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the hard-bottom off Pacific Beach (located below the closed Marine Protected Area), the upper end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer pipelines, and the artificial reefs outside Oceanside Harbor.
It would be a mistake to let the two-month rockfish/groundfish closure keep you from getting out on the water and doing some fishing. The uncanny timing of the influx of Humboldt squid has given Southern California anglers plenty of reasons to start off the New Year with a fishing trip.
Bob Vanian is the voice, writer and researcher of the San Diego-based Internet fish report service 976-Bite at 976bite.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.