Offshore and near-shore bites pick up in intensity

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — It is the middle of July and Southern California saltwater anglers have a lot of options of what fish to target and where to drop a line. Those looking for tuna can go fish offshore waters and target bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna and have a chance at catching a dorado or yellowtail as well. The local offshore islands are producing a mix of yellowtail, calico bass, bonito and barracuda. Those fishing kelp bed spots along the coast have been finding good calico bass fishing and have also been finding occasional flurries of action on barracuda, bonito, sand bass and yellowtail.

The offshore fishing attracts a lot of the attention and has been providing a mix of bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, yellowtail and dorado. The tuna counts have not been high but the quality size of some of the bluefin remains outstanding as there have been bluefin biting that have ranged in size from 20 to 200+ pounds. The yellowfin tuna are also quality-sized fish and most have been running from 20 to 70 pounds. Most of the dorado have been in the 5- to 15-pound range and most of the kelp paddie yellowtail have been in the 5- to 20-pound range.

The frustrating thing about tuna fishing: anglers often look at a lot of bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna and have a hard time getting them to bite.

The big bluefin have been biting best on kite trolled Yummy Flyers. Also productive for bluefin have been sardines, mackerel, trolled cedar plugs, Rapalas and Halco 130s. The bluefin have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks and spots of breaking, breezing or puddling fish. A positive indicator of a zone that might be holding bluefin tuna is in an area where you might find shearwater birds or working tern birds.

The yellowfin tuna have for the most part been running from 20 to 70 pounds. Cedar plugs have been working best for the yellowfin, which have also been biting on sardines, Rapalas and Halco 130s. The yellowfin have been found by locating sonar marks, meter marks, porpoise schools and spots of breaking, puddling or breezing fish. The yellowtail and dorado have been biting around kelp paddies and have been biting best on sardines.

Productive areas for the bluefin and yellowfin have been the 209 Spot, the 312 Spot, the 181 Spot, the 289 Spot, the 181 Spot, the 312 Spot, the area 7 to 15 miles off the coast between San Onofre and Carlsbad, the 182 Spot, the 43 Fathom Spot, the Corner, the 224 Spot, the 230 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 371 Bank, the 178 Spot and the 9 Mile Bank. Among those areas, the best for a chance at a large bluefin has been while fishing around the 302 Spot and the 224 Spot.

Capt. Billy of Bill Fish Sportfishing runs trips on the 4-pack and 6-pack charter boats E Fish N Sea, Tailblazen and All Paid and he reported about a recent overnight trip aboard All Paid. Capt. Billy started his day fishing out by the Corner at 30 miles 255 degrees from Point Loma where they caught a 20-pound yellowfin tuna and a mako shark. As the day progressed Capt. Billy worked the area of the 224 Spot where he found some of the larger sized bluefin tuna and where angler Mike Light caught an estimated 140 to 150 pound bluefin that bit on a kite trolled Yummy Flyer. Capt. Billy reported finding this action while fishing a short way outside of the 224 Spot at 23 miles 235 degrees from Point Loma.

Capt. Billy was locating bluefin by finding meter marks on the cool waterside of a temperature break. What was most encouraging is that they would throw chum as they trolled over the meter marks and that the bluefin would often respond to the chum and come up boiling. They tired dropping back sardines and mackerel to the boiling bluefin but they would not bite their hook baits. It is good to see the bluefin starting to respond better to the chummed sardines and this might be a sign that they are starting to show more interest in the types of baits anglers are presenting to them.

Private boater Mike Seymour of the Sea Section reported running up to Catalina from San Diego to purchase some squid from a squid boat that was anchored in front of Avalon. He bought his live squid for bait and then went over to San Clemente Island to try for white sea bass and yellowtail in the dark at Pyramid Cove. Seymour reported catching some calico bass at Pyramid Cove but had no luck with white sea bass or yellowtail.

Seymour’s main purpose for going to San Clemente Island with live squid was to try for bluefin tuna at Desperation Reef. In the morning he went to Desperation Reef and saw one spot of breaking bluefin tuna shortly after arrival. After spending some time fishing the area they never saw anything else and Seymour said it was looking rather quiet in the area and they left.

After leaving Desperation Reef Seymour fished his way back to San Diego and his friend Ron Zaccaro caught a 6-pound dorado from a kelp paddie that was found above the 178 Spot.

The next day, Seymour took his remaining live squid to Los Coronado Islands where he fished with his wife Peggy and their friend Scott Pastore and caught 7 yellowtail, along with a bunch of bass and barracuda. One of their yellowtail was small and was released and the rest were in the 6- to 13-pound range. One of the highlights of the trip was when Scott Pastore caught and released a 7-pound sand bass.

Seymour found his best fishing at the South Kelp below South Island and said there were also some yellowtail biting for them while fishing along the lee side of South Island. His observation was that the yellows at the South Kelp were nicer sized fish than the ones in the lee of South Island.

The overall report for the fishing around Los Coronado Islands is that there has been good fishing for a mix of yellowtail, calico bass, bonito and barracuda. Productive areas have been the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, the north end of South Island, the lee side of South Island and the South Kelp. A lot of the fishing is being done while sitting on the anchor. Also look for meter marks, sonar marks, spots of breaking fish or working birds to stop on and drift while fishing with sardines and surface iron.

The surface fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for calico bass along with an occasional flurry of action on barracuda, bonito or yellowtail. Kelp bed areas have been the best for the calicos with the Point Loma Kelp Beds, the La Jolla Kelp beds, the kelp beds between Del Mar and Carlsbad and the kelp at San Onofre, the Barn and Yellowtail Kelp all producing good numbers of calico bass. There have been bonito and yellowtail biting along the edges of the kelp at times but some of the best action for bonito and yellowtail has been found while fishing spots of working tern birds found out in the 50 to 100 fathom depths between Point Loma and La Jolla. Also look for a few yellowtail holding under kelp paddies found within 3 miles of La Jolla.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing reports very good calico bass action while fishing kelp bed areas between Carlsbad and Solana Beach. Cacciola reports the water temperature in the area has been running from 70 to 72 degrees and says the calicos have been biting best on anchovies and Hookup Bait plastics in the 3/8- and 1/2-ounce sizes. Good color Hookup Baits has been sardine, anchovy and chartreuse. Cacciola reported that they had some streaks of red tide water coming through on their last trip but said that the calicos did not seem to be bothered by the streaky red tide water conditions and continued to bite well.

A high percentage of the calicos have been short sized fish that need to be released but Cacciola reports there has been recent improvement in the percentage of legal sized fish in the mix. On his most recent trip, Cacciola reported the best fishing of the season for legal sized calicos and he indicated that an experienced angler could have caught a limit of calico bass.

In addition to the calico bass Cacciola says they see a few yellowtail around while fishing for the calicos. He says they get an occasional yellowtail hookup usually lost in the kelp. They have also been catching and successfully releasing some short sized white sea bass and have been catching and successfully releasing occasional large black sea bass up to 225 pounds.

Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported about fishing the Horseshoe Kelp on a recent trip out of Long Beach. He reported finding excellent barracuda fishing while working the Middle Grounds area outside of the green buoy at the Horseshoe Kelp. Golding reported finding the barracuda by trolling Yo-Zuri and Halco plugs and says when they had found three trolling strikes at the same general spot they anchored on the spot. Once anchored they started catching the barries on sardines and surface iron.

Golding reported the three anglers aboard caught 20+ legal sized barracuda and said that they kept what they could use and released the rest. In addition to their catch of barracuda, they also caught and released six legal sized calico bass. Golding’s report was the barracuda biting the iron were the short sized barracuda that had to be released and said their larger legal sized barracuda were caught on sardines.

San Clemente Island has been providing good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, calico bass, bonito and rockfish along with an occasional white seabass. The yellowtail have been nice sized fish that have been running from 10 to 30 pounds. Boats are fishing many areas around and about the Island and have been finding action at quite a few locations. On the front side of the Island productive areas have been Purse Seine Rock, White Rock and Gold Bluff. On the backside of the Island, the best areas have been the ridges between Pyramid Cove and China Point, West Cove, Lost Point, Eel Point and the 9 Fathom Spot.

Live squid has been the best bait for the yellowtail and there has been some squid to catch for bait at night in Pyramid Cove. Some of the boats have also been bringing squid over to San Clemente Island from Catalina where it is being caught at night off Ben Weston.

Catalina Island has been producing flurries of yellowtail action along with a mix of calico bass, barracuda, bonito and rockfish. A couple of the better yellowtail areas have been Ben Weston, Salta Verde and the V’s. On the front side of the Island and along the east end of the Island there has been a mixed bag of yellowtail, calico bass, bonito and barracuda biting for boats fishing spots such as Little Gibraltar, Gallagher’s Beach, Toyon Bay, the East End Light and Church Rock.

The best zone for squid catching at Catalina has been while fishing off Ben Weston. There have often been squid boats offering squid for sale while anchored up outside of Avalon. Try to raise the squid boats on VHF channels 72 and 11.

The summer fishing season offers anglers a lot of fun choices of what to target and where to fish. Enjoy the summer 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 called 976-Bite which can be found at 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

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