By: Bob Vanian
SAN DIEGO — It has been a very good start to the yellowtail season at Los Coronado Islands as the yellowtail began biting back in early January and have been in the picture ever since. The yellowtail bite has been up and down during that three month time period but anglers have not been complaining about the lulls in the action as the first three months of the year are more often than not months that provide very little in the way of yellowtail action. We are way ahead of what one might call a “normal” schedule with regard to the 2014 Los Coronado Islands yellowtail season.
As this report is being prepared, we are in the midst of a few days of somewhat scratchy yellowtail action at Los Coronado Islands but yellowtail are still being caught every day. The last hot day of fishing was several days ago and anglers are anxiously awaiting another upswing in the bite.
To provide an idea of how good the fishing has been when the yellowtail are on the bite, here are some fish counts from the most recent hot day of yellowtail action. The three-quarter day trip on Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing had 22 anglers catch 64 yellowtail and 5 rockfish. Malihini out of H&M Landing posted a three-quarter day trip fish count of 30 anglers catching 49 yellowtail and one rockfish. The three-quarter day trip on San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing was also out fishing and they had 16 anglers post the best yellowtail catch of the day with 74 yellowtail.
The yellowtail are nice sized fish and most have been ranging in size from 15 to 30 pounds. Most of the yellowtail have been caught on yo-yo iron, surface iron, flylined sardines or flylined mackerel. Good choices for yo-yo iron have been Salas 6X and 6X Jr’s, Sumo Jr’s and Tady 4/0’s in blue and white, blue and chrome and scrambled egg colors. Good choices for surface iron have been Tady 45’s and Salas 7X Lights in blue and white, sardine and mint colors.
The majority of the yellows are being located by finding meter marks with scanning sonar but skippers occasionally report finding schools of yellowtail up on the surface under working birds. Private boaters without scanning sonar can maximize their chances of getting a meter mark with a traditional up and down style fathometer by working areas where they are finding birds and bait.
An occasional yellowtail is being caught the troll and trolling some X-Rap Rapalas while looking for a meter mark or bird school to stop on can result in an occasional yellowtail. Private boater, Captain Bob Woodard of the Christina Lynn fished a recent trip to Los Coronado Islands on a day when the yellowtail were not biting very well. Their only yellowtail of the day came on the troll on an X-Rap Rapala while they were looking around for a meter mark or bird school to stop on.
The water temperature around Los Coronado Islands has been excellent for early season yellowtail action and has been running between 62 and 64 degrees. The water color has also been good and has been described as a clean blue-green color. The best areas to locate yellowtail have been the South Kelp, the 5 Minute Kelp and the Middle Grounds. The weather side of North Island and the Rockpile have also been providing occasional yellowtail action.
The past few days have seen the first showings of barracuda around Los Coronado Islands. The South Kelp, 5 Minute Kelp and Ribbon Kelp areas are likely spots to locate some barracuda.
There has also been good rockfish fishing for boats fishing the waters around and about Los Coronado Islands. A few bonus lingcod have also been biting at the rockfish grounds. The best areas for the bottom fishing have been the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank (while fishing on the Mexican side of the border), the hard bottom to the north and the north-northwest of North Island, the hard bottom outside of the Middle Grounds and the outer ridges of the South Kelp Ridge.
A reminder is that the Mexican authorities have regularly been inspecting boats fishing the region of Los Coronado Islands and other areas within the 12 mile limit. You need to be certain that you have all your paperwork in order for the boat and for the people aboard the boat.
Boats fishing along the San Diego County coast have been picking up a mix of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and rockfish and are also catching a few halibut. There have also been some showings of yellowtail at the upper end of La Jolla but for the most part it has been hard to get the yellowtail to bite when you find them. The occasional showings of yellowtail outside of the upper end of La Jolla have been reported while fishing in 18 to 40 fathoms of water.
Boats fishing out of San Diego Bay have been doing well on the rockfish while fishing hard bottom spots outside of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma. The Imperial Beach Pipeline and the hard bottom outside of the Green Tank at Point Loma have also been productive areas for rockfish. One of the better areas for a chance at a halibut along with finding some sand bass and sculpin in the mix has been while drift fishing off Imperial Beach. Try drifting for the halibut at sandy bottom areas adjacent to kelp stringers in 50 to 75 feet of water.
In the La Jolla region, boats fishing hard bottom areas outside of the upper end of La Jolla have been picking up pretty good numbers of rockfish while fishing in about 30 fathoms of water but some of the more recent trips to fish for rockfish out of Mission Bay have been finding their best fishing outside of Del Mar.
There is a chance at picking up a halibut while fishing the sandy bottom next to structure outside of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. Drifting alongside of the structure of the Yukon wreck or the sunken NEL Tower can help you focus on productive sandy bottom halibut areas.
In the northern San Diego County region, there have been rockfish biting for boats fishing outside of Leucadia and Box Canyon. Also try for a few bass and sculpin while fishing the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and the structure of the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines.
Drifting the sandy bottom around the structure of the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and the sandy bottom off of the Golf Ball can lead to some halibut action. Boats fishing out of Dana Point have reported finding some halibut activity while drifting sandy bottom around the pipeline at San Onofre and outside of the edges of kelp at the Barn.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of the Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reports that they have been doing well on shallow water rockfish on their recent trips. At the time of his report Capt. Cacciola had just returned from a half-day trip where they tried something different and focused their efforts on fishing kelp bed and near shore hard bottom spots. He was pleased with what he found biting on this inshore half-day trip and said they found nice conditions and some good quality sized fish biting.
Capt. Cacciola reported 64 degree clean green-blue water in along the kelp beds and reported a favorable current condition that was running in toward the beach. Cacciola was impressed by the size of the sand bass, sheephead, and whitefish they caught and was encouraged about the prospects for the upcoming spring and summer season of fishing the kelp beds. Their count for their half-day trip was 16 anglers catching seven sand bass, four calico bass, a good number of short sized calico bass that were released, two whitefish, eight sheephead, two rockfish and “lots” of perch. They were fishing fresh frozen squid on the bottom and Cacciola said they also caught some of their bass on Berkley Gulp baits.
Spring is officially here but the yellowtail fishing at Los Coronado Islands has been spring like for nearly three months. We have warmer than normal water off our coast right now and this could result in a great 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 called 976-Bite which can be found at www.976bite.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.