Offshore pre-summer fishing highlighted by tuna bites

SAN DIEGO — The summer fishing season does not arrive until June 21, 2017 but Southern California offshore anglers continue to enjoy the run of bluefin tuna and yellowtail that started back in March. There are now a good number of yellowfin tuna in the mix with the bluefin tuna. Anglers are looking to see the fishing get better and better as the summer season arrives and develops.

What has been frustrating for a lot of anglers is there are lots of bluefin and yellowfin around – but more often than not they aren’t getting bites. There was one story after the next of anglers looking at numerous schools of breaking tuna during the day and not being able to get them to bite. There are some biters to be found, though. If the fish change their habits a bit and start biting better, there are enough fish around to provide some great action.

One recent change for the better is that the bluefin and yellowfin have started biting better on the kite trolled Yummy Flyers. Some of the bluefin have been biting on the kite trolled Yummy Flyers have been the jumbo sized fish, with one private boater reporting a 240-pound catch via the fish weight measurement formula.

San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing had a three-quarter-day trip with 17 anglers catch 7 bluefin tuna and 3 yellowfin tuna on June 11. Fisherman’s Landing had Liberty out fishing a three-quarter-day trip – also on June 11 – return with 7 bluefin tuna and 1 yellowfin tuna. Fisherman’s Landing also had Pacific Queen fishing an overnight trip with 30 anglers catching 3 bluefin tuna.

The bluefin tuna have been running from 20 to 200+ pounds, with most in the 20- to 35-pound range. Increasing numbers of the 100+ pound class fish have been biting in recent days and this increase in the action on the larger sized bluefin started when the fish changed their habits and started biting better on the kite trolled Yummy Flyers. The few yellowfin tuna that have been biting have been mostly 20- to 40-pound fish and the kelp paddie yellowtail have been running from 5 to 25 pounds.

The best areas for the bluefin and yellowfin have been at some of the offshore banks in the region of Los Coronado Islands that are 12 to 35 miles from Point Loma. Recent tuna action has been reported at spots such as the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank, the area out 4 to 8 miles west to southwest of North Island, the Corner, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot and the 371 Bank.

Some of the bluefin have been biting from stopping on sonar marks, meter marks and spots of breaking or puddling fish but the past few days have seen more and more bluefin and a few yellowfin biting on the kite trolled Yummy Flyers. A good indicator of a zone possibly holding bluefin tuna is where you might see shearwater birds or see tern birds diving and picking on the surface of the water.

In addition to bluefin and yellowfin being caught on the kite trolled Yummy Flyers there is also an occasional bluefin or yellowfin caught on a trolled cedar plug, Rapapa or Halco 130 jig in the purple tiger stripe color.

Private boater Craig Boegler of Gooey Duck reported hooking an estimated 200+ pound bluefin tuna while fishing on the inside edge of the 302 Spot on June 7. He said they hooked the jumbo sized bluefin on a sardine they fished around a group of working tern birds. They fought the big bluefin for 4.5 hours and never got close to getting it before it wore out the line and was lost.

Boegler has experience with large bluefin as he caught bluefin in excess of 100 pounds last season. He said they got a good look at this fish when it once surfaced abeam of the boat and he estimated this fish to be well in excess of 200 pounds. He said they had the fish hooked on a Torium 16 reel and a Terez rod with 40-pound test top shot and braided line. He said that the rod and reel held up well but that the fish was just too big to have much of a chance at catching it with 40-pound test. It was heartbreaking to lose such a big fish after a 4.5-hour battle but they tipped their hat in respect to the winner of this long battle.

With all the tuna activity offshore, there are not many reports coming from Los Coronado Islands but there was a sportboat trip that recently fished Los Coronado Islands and returned with a good mixed bag catch of bonito, calico bass, yellowtail and rockfish. The best areas for surface fishing around Los Coronado Islands during the spring season have been the weather side of North Island, the South Kelp and the Lighthouse at the south tip of South Island.

The surface fishing along the San Diego County coast has been improving with the arrival of better coastal water conditions. The water has been cleaning up and warming up along much of the coast.

Imperial Beach is one of the areas with improving water conditions. Private boater Capt. Bob Woodard of Christina Lynn reported about fishing a trip to Imperial Beach targeting halibut on June 11. It has been a slow spring season for halibut and Woodard was hoping that the improved water conditions just might trigger a halibut bite. He said they spent about 4 hours giving it a try and reported no luck with the halibut. They did catch a couple of barracuda and a couple of sand bass and also had some fun in catching and releasing a small thresher shark. After trying Imperial Beach they finished up the trip fishing around the Zuniga Jetty near the entrance to San Diego Bay. They caught and released a sculpin and a short sized halibut but could not find any action on legal sized halibut.

A lot of the fishing effort out of San Diego Bay and Mission Bay has been focused on the Point Loma Kelp Beds where there are occasional showings of yellowtail out in the 18 to 30 fathom depths for boats fishing from the Whistler Buoy on up to the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay. In along the edges of the kelp, boats have been finding a nice mix of calico bass and rockfish biting along with a few barracuda. A lot of the calico bass and barracuda are short sized fish that must be released but there have also been some legal sized calico bass and barracuda in the mix.

The water at La Jolla has cleaned up and warmed up but a lot of Skippers have still been choosing to fish the Point Loma Kelp Beds over La Jolla. The kelp beds at La Jolla have been producing some calico bass and there has been a chance at finding yellowtail while fishing the area of Northwest outside of the upper end of La Jolla. The fishing for rockfish has been good at the 270 Area to the west of Mission Bay and has also been good at the ridge areas outside of Del Mar.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing reports that they have had good fishing for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, short sized barracuda (that are released) and an assortment of bottom fish while working kelp bed areas and hard bottom spots between Carlsbad and Solana Beach. Cacciola reports much improved water conditions in the region as the water has warmed to between 63 and 66 degrees and is currently a clean green color.

As an example of the recent fishing, Cacciola talked about a three-quarter-day trip where they had a catch of 25 keeper sized bass, 200+ short sized bass that were released along with a mix of a few sheephead and rockfish. He says they have also regularly been catching and releasing short sized white sea bass and also recently caught and released a big black sea bass. Cacciola also reports seeing thresher sharks incidental to fishing for the calico bass along the edges of the kelp.

The calicos have been biting best in the kelp and the kelp is reported to be growing on hard bottom areas out to about 50 feet of water. The kelp goes away once you are fishing much deeper than 50 feet. Anchovies have worked well for the calicos. Also productive for the calicos have been B-52 buck tail jigs and 3/8-ounce Hookup Bait plastics. The best color Hookup Bait plastic was reported to be the anchovy color and the green and yellow color combination has also been working well.

San Clemente Island has been providing good mixed bag fishing for yellowtail, calico bass, bonito and rockfish. Also look for a chance at a white seabass at the squid areas in Pyramid Cove and West Cove. The yellowtail have been running from 10 to 30 pounds and most of the white sea bass have been in the 20-pound class.

Productive areas for a mixed bag of fish have been while fishing along the ridge between Pyramid Cove and China Point as well as fishing off Eel Point, Purse Seine Rock, White Rock and Gold Bluff.

Catalina Island has been producing occasional flurries of yellowtail and white seabass action along with a mix of calico bass, barracuda, bonito and rockfish. Along the front side of the Island, productive areas have been around the Isthmus and Johnson’s Rock as well as at spots around the middle part of the front side of the Island. Along the backside of the Island, a good zone has been fishing the stretch between China Point and Ben Weston as well as off Freddie’s Beach.

Live squid has been the best bait for the yellowtail and white sea bass with the Ben Weston area producing some squid at night at Catalina. Try to raise the squid boats on VHF channels 72 and 11.

The spring fishing season is getting ready to turn into the summer season on June 21, 2017 and anglers are hoping that the will do nothing but keep improving as the summer season unfolds. I hope you get a chance to get out and participate in the late spring and summer 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 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

Cobra Sportfishing photo

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