Winter Yellowtail Bite at Los Coronado Island Highlights Action

By: By Bob Vanian

It does not happen every year but every once in awhile San Diego area anglers are blessed with a wintertime run of yellowtail out at Los Coronado Islands. Skippers, such as Capt. Steve Peterson of Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing, are always keeping a lookout for signs of yellowtail while out on winter rockfish trips. That was what happened on Jan. 3, when Capt. Peterson found an area of biting yellowtail while on a Los Coronado Islands’ trip.

The trip was primarily focused on bottom fishing for an assortment of rockfish but the lucky anglers aboard Mission Belle got into some unexpected, but welcomed, action on 20 to 30 pound yellowtail in addition to getting in on good fishing for an assortment of bottom fish. Twenty-three anglers caught 18 yellowtail, 200 rockfish and 4 lingcod.

The yellowtail bite was no flash in the pan as yellowtail has been caught each day up to press time. Yellowtail counts on three quarter day sportboat trips have gone up into the mid 30s on some of the better trips and the most recent count was 22 anglers on a three quarter day trip on Mission Belle catching 22 yellowtail and 7 rockfish.

Capt. Mike Hadfield of the 6 pack charter yacht Josie Lynn out of Point Loma Sportfishing was out on the one day during the past 10 days when the yellowtail did not bite very well but he did report seeing yellowtail via his scanning sonar that were holding around schools of mackerel found along the weather side of North Island. Capt. Hadfield was running an open party overnight trip and still managed to put together a nice fish count as his five anglers combined to catch limits of rockfish (25 rockfish), 10 lingcod, 10 whitefish and 1 cabezon. The good news was that the yellowtail bite rallied sharply the very next day.

Yellowtail have been found by locating sonar marks along the weather side of North Island with the Pukey Point area being the best within that zone. Schools of bait in that same zone have also been leading to some of the yellowtail action. Yo-yoed iron has been the best bet for the yellowtail and a few yellows have also been biting on sardines that are fished deep on a dropper loop rig. Good choices for the yo-yo iron have been Salas 6X and 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white, scrambled egg and blue and chrome colors.

The best bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been reported from hard bottom areas into the north of North Island and a good depth range has been in 30 to 45 fathoms of water. Also worth a check for rockfish are the outer ridge areas ranging from the area outside of the Middle Grounds on down to the South Kelp Ridge.

There has also been some excellent bottom fishing reported from boats fishing further down the Mexican coast in the Punta Colnett region and the Banda Bank. Big reds and jumbo sized lingcod have been highlighting catches coming from the Punta Colnett and some big reds have been highlighting catches at the Banda Bank.

The Mexican authorities continue to enforce the FMM Immigration Form (Mexican Visa) requirement for boats within the 12 mile limit. Boats fishing around Los Coronado Islands and elsewhere have been told to return to U.S. waters if they do not have an FMM Immigration Form, Passports and Mexican Fishing Licenses for each person aboard. You also need to have the boat’s registration papers, a FCC Ships Station License for your VHF radio and an FCC Operator’s License for the operator of the radio. There is a way to obtain the FMM Immigration Forms and to submit and print out a list of the people aboard the trip and a receipt for payment;

Those fishing on the U.S side of the Mexican border are required to fish under the restrictions imposed by the annual two month rockfish/groundfish closure that is effect until May 1, 2014. Anglers have been adjusting their angling activities to target species that remain open to fishing during the closure period such as calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, white seabass, yellowtail and halibut.

Shallow water hard bottom and structure spots in the 10 to 18 fathom depths have been producing a mix of sand bass, calico bass and sculpin. Specific areas that have been producing are the Imperial Beach Pipeline, hard bottom and kelp areas outside of Imperial Beach, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at the Buoyline at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the hard bottom outside of the kelp at the Green Tank at Point Loma, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the hard bottom below the MLPA closure area at the lower end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and the hard bottom outside of the Barn.

Likely spots to try for halibut are sandy bottom areas that are adjacent to hard bottom and structure. Spots that produce an occasional halibut are Imperial Beach, Coronado, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Torrey Pines, Leucadia, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and the Golf Ball. There is no hot halibut bite to report from these areas but the best of the action has been reported to be coming from the Imperial Beach, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach areas. Good live baits for halibut have been small mackerel, sardines and anchovies.

There is some unseasonably good fishing going on with the yellowtail bite happening at Los Coronado Islands. Take advantage of the opportunity while the fish are still around and biting. 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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