By: Bob Vanian
The yellowtail season began early for San Diego area anglers, as there were yellowtail biting out at Los Coronados islands since the early days of March. That early start to the season proved to be no flash in the pan, as the yellows have settled in and been in the picture almost every day.
There have been good days and scratchy days of yellowtail action, but the yellows have been around and biting for a month — and they got the 2013 spring surface fishing season off to a very good start.
Recent yellowtail catches have been somewhat hit or miss, but even on the more difficult days, it seems there is a boat or two that manages to get into a good yellowtail stop.
The yellowtail catches continue to be large fish, with most in the 20- to 30-pound range. Even on the tougher days of fishing, skippers seem to be able to locate some yellowtail to provide anglers with the excitement of a realistic opportunity of hooking a trophy-size fish.
Some of the recent yellowtail catch highlights start with Point Loma, out of Point Loma Sportfishing, which had a three-quarter-day trip on April 7 that returned with nine anglers catching eight yellowtail and 30 rockfish.
San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing had an April 6 three-quarter-day trip with 48 anglers posting a catch of 20 yellowtail, two sheephead and 52 rockfish. On April 5, Seaforth Sportfishing had Pacific Voyager and San Diego out on three-quarter-day trips, and they combined to have 47 anglers catching 57 yellowtail.
Point Loma Sportfishing had Mission Belle out on a three-quarter-day trip on April 4, with 17 anglers catching 31 yellowtail and 12 rockfish. That same day, H&M Landing had Malihini out on a three-quarter-day trip, with 30 anglers catching 22 yellowtail and 15 rockfish.
The most recent hot bite area has been at the Rockpile — but in recent days, yellowtail action has also been reported at the Middle Grounds, Ribbon Kelp and the South Kelp Ridge. Most of the action has been coming from drifting on meter marks found with scanning sonar, but there are occasional yellowtail spotted up on the surface under working birds, as well.
Most of the yellowtail have been caught while chumming sardines and fishing with yo-yoed iron. Surface iron has also been effective, if you find a group of fish under the birds that stays up on the surface long enough to get the jig to them before they sound.
Also, try surface iron or sardines if the yellows come up and boil around on your chum while drifting over a meter mark. If a school of fish that you find up under the birds goes down before you get to them, you might want to use yo-yo iron to reach the fish after they have sounded.
Good choices for yo-yo iron are Salas 6X Jr.s, Sumo Jr.s and Salas 6Xs in blue and white, blue and chrome or scrambled egg colors. Using 40-pound-test line is suggested with the yo-yoed iron, to handle 20- to 30-pound fish.
A good choice for surface iron would be a Tady 45 or Salas 7X Light in blue and white, mint or sardine colors.
Private boater Floyd Sparks of Tuna Kahuna was fishing with his friend Gabe Clum aboard, and he reported that they caught two yellowtail out of three hook-ups. They caught their fish on blue and white yo-yoed iron while fishing around the Rockpile, in 130 feet of water.
Sparks said that he stayed put and drifted when he found an area where he knew there were some yellowtail around. Every once in a while, the yellowtail would come through, and they would bite for them.
The La Jolla region continues to provide a chance at a yellowtail, but most days the yellowtail bite has been slow. Most of the yellowtail action has been coming on surface iron that is cast to a spot of breaking fish.
Recent showings of yellowtail in the La Jolla region have been reported between Mission Bay and Pacific Beach, in 25 to 30 fathoms of water. If you are at the right spot at the right time on the right day, you’ll have a chance at catching a beautiful 25- to 30-pound-class yellowtail.
The remainder of the fishing along the San Diego County coast has been productive for a mix of rockfish, bass and sculpin. Some of the better spots for rockfish have included the Imperial Beach Pipeline, Whistler Buoy, Dropoff and Green Tank at Point Loma, the hard-bottom area below the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) closure area at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia and Box Canyon.
Those looking for rockfish out around Los Coronados islands have also been reporting success. There has been good deep-water bottomfishing reported at the lower end of the 9-Mile Bank on the Mexican side of the border, in 60 to 90 fathoms of water.
Also, hard-bottom areas north of North Island have been productive, in 25 to 40 fathom depths. Another productive rockfish zone has been the outer ridge areas outside of the Middle Grounds and South Kelp Ridge, in 25- to 40-fathom depths.
A lot of skippers have been trying for halibut at spots along the San Diego County coast and out around Los Coronados islands. But, so far, the halibut fishing has been on the spotty side. It certainly is about time for a spring halibut bite to develop, and it might be that a couple of degrees of warmer water will be all it takes.
It sure is nice to have such quality-size yellowtail around to target during the early spring fishing season. 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 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.