San Diego Report: Yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna and yellowtail excite anglers

By: Bob Vanian

There is talk about the possibility of a warm water El Nino coming and the fish may be ahead of the forecasters as an early showing of yellowfin tuna within 1.5 day range of Point Loma has anglers wondering what pleasant surprises might be in store for the remainder of the 2014 fishing season — and beyond. Anglers are accustomed to seeing yellowfin tuna start a showing in late August or early September and it is a very unusual occurrence for the month of May.            

Mark Larson of Seaforth Sportfishing reported that Eclipse got into yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna and yellowtail while on the first day of a two day trip on May 17. The Eclipse caught two yellowtail, 12 yellowfin tuna and 15 bluefin tuna while fishing approximately 150 miles below Point Loma. The yellowfin were reported to be in the 12 to 18 pound range and the bluefin included fish that ranged up to the 30 plus pound class. It was more than just one boat that got into some yellowfin tuna action as Larson reported that Apollo caught a yellowfin tuna along with some kelp paddie yellowtail while fishing approximately 100 miles from Point Loma. The final count for Apollo’s two day trip was 16 anglers catching one yellowfin tuna, seven yellowtail, 99 rockfish, two sheephead, one whitefish and one lingcod.            

In more local offshore waters there are some yellowtail starting to show under kelp paddies spread over a large area ranging from the 9 Mile Bank on up to the West End of Catalina. There are mostly dry paddies being reported so far but there are indeed a few paddies around that are holding yellowtail. One good kelp paddie which was reported to be loaded with 8 to 10 pound yellowtail was found about 8 miles west of La Jolla and another kelp paddie that produced two yellowtail was reported 6 miles outside of the West End of Catalina Island. It is just the start of the season for this type of kelp paddie activity and more and more fish are likely to keep building up under the kelp paddies as the season progresses.            

The fishing at Los Coronado Islands and at the Flats area inside of Los Coronado Islands remains good for yellowtail. The yellowtail continue to be quality sized fish with most falling within the 15 to 30 pound class.            

Productive areas out by Los Coronado Islands have been the south tip of North Island, the lee side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, the north end of South Island, the South Kelp, the South Kelp Ridge and the Rockpile. At the Flats area in toward the coast, there have been yellowtail found biting under working tern birds in an area ranging from 2.5 miles from Buoy #5 at Point Loma all the way down to the Rosarito Beach Power Plant.            

The yellowtail have been moving around a lot and you need to locate them each day. The good thing is that the yellowtail are usually marked by working tern birds. This kind of a pattern makes it easier for boats without scanning sonar to locate yellowtail compared to when the fish are holding deeper and need to be located via a meter mark or sonar mark.            

Surface iron has often been the best way to go when fishing the tern bird schools but at times, private boaters have also reported success on slow trolled live mackerel and slow trolled live sardines. Private boaters have also been regularly reporting action on drifted live baits when they are stopped and fighting a hooked fish that they hooked on the slow troll.            

Private boater Gary of Reel Crazy fished a recent trip out at Los Coronado Islands and reported starting the day at North Island and the Middle Grounds. He found slow fishing in these areas and made a move to the South Kelp below South Island.  He found a lot more activity going on at the South Kelp with lots of bird life and with showings of yellowtail and barracuda under the working birds. They slow trolled sardines where they were finding bird life inside of the South Kelp and picked up two nice sized yellowtail that weighed 27 pound each.            

Private boater, Capt. Bob Woodard of Christina Lynn reported about fishing The Marlin Club’s Spring Shootout Tournament on May 17. Woodard was fishing with private boater Robb Lane aboard Lane’s boat AJ and Woodard’s nephew Mark Woodard was also aboard. They found their best fishing while working the Flats area between South Island and the Mexican coast and caught five yellowtail. Woodard said that their fish were in the 20 to 25 pound class and that his 24.8 pound yellowtail was the third largest yellowtail in the tournament. Most of their action came on slow trolled sardines and they also hooked one yellowtail on a drifted sardine while they were fighting another hooked fish.            

Capt. Mike Hadfield of the 6 pack charter yacht Josie Lynn out of Point Loma Sportfishing reported about fishing a recent trip to Los Coronado Islands.  Hadfield reported targeting rockfish early in the day and they found limit fishing for reds and assorted rockfish. After limiting out on the rockfish, they did some surface fishing and found action on barracuda and yellowtail. They picked up three barracuda at the South Kelp and caught a yellowtail at the Flats area below the Bull Ring at Tijuana. Their count for the day was one yellowtail, three barracuda and their limits of reds and assorted rockfish.            

Capt. Bob Aronson of Angler Management and the 4 pack and 6 pack charter boats Angler Management 1 and Angler Management 2 reported about fishing a recent trip to the Flats and Los Coronado Islands. They started out their day of fishing at the Flats and did not find much in the way of biting yellowtail in that zone. Aronson made a move over to Los Coronado Islands and the move paid off as they found good yellowtail action while fishing at the south tip of North Island and at the north end of South Island. The yellows were biting on slow trolled mackerel and slow trolled sardines and they caught six yellowtail that each weighed in at 27 pounds.            

Private boater Floyd Sparks of Tuna Kahuna fished a recent trip to the Flats and was running down to the Bull Ring at Tijuana when he found an area of working tern birds just 2.5 miles 181 degrees from Buoy #5 at Point Loma. He slowed down to investigate the working birds and found that the birds were working feeding yellowtail. Sparks fished the bird schools in the area for 2 hours and picked up six of the 20 to 30 pound yellowtail while using mint color and dorado color surface iron.            

Private boater Mike Rooney of Reel Busy reported about fishing a recent trip to Los Coronado Islands. Rooney tried the Middle Grounds and North Island during the morning hours and reported finding slow fishing in those areas. His next move was to the South Kelp below South Island where they hooked and lost one yellowtail on a drifted sardine. It was an afternoon bite that finally produced some yellowtail for them as they found some good action from spots of tern birds that were working feeding yellowtail located about a mile into the north of South Island. They caught three yellowtail out of the afternoon bite on blue and white surface iron. Their yellowtail were good sized fish that weighed between 22 and 28 pounds.            

The fishing along the San Diego County coast has seen occasional showings of yellowtail at La Jolla but the showings of fish remain inconsistent and the yellows usually do not bite very well. The two areas where the yellows tend to pop up have been while fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla in the 15 to 25 fathom depths and at the Bull Kelp area below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla while fishing in 14 to 18 fathoms of water. The best chance at hooking a yellowtail has been to get surface iron to a bird school or a spot of breezing fish before they sound.            

In addition to a chance at a yellowtail, the fishing at La Jolla has been producing a mix of calico bass and rockfish. Most of the calicos are undersized fish that fall short of the 14 inch minimum size requirement and need to be released but there have been a few legal sized fish in the mix as well.            

The best calico bass fishing has been in the kelp beds at Point Loma. Similar to the fishing at La Jolla, most of the calicos are short sized fish that need to be released but there have been a few legal sized fish in the mix. The best areas for the calico bass have been in the kelp beds at the middle and upper part of Point Loma at spots such as the 5 Tanks, Lab, Green Tank and Point Loma College. Anchovies and plastics have been working best for the calico bass.            

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reports that the conditions are good for calico bass to be biting in the local kelp beds but says that the bite has yet to be as good as one might expect to find with the nice water conditions that are around. He expects the calico bass bite to be picking up any day and says that in the interim that there has been good fishing for an assortment of rockfish to keep anglers busy. Look for rockfish to be biting at hard bottom areas outside of Leucadia and Solana Beach.            

White seabass have been biting at a squid bed area outside of the Border Check Station below San Onofre. There has also been an occasional large yellowtail caught from this same zone. The white seabass have usually not been biting in big numbers but they have been mostly large fish that have been in the 30 to 60 pound range. The best bet for a chance at a white seabass or yellowtail has been to try fishing in the same spot where you might locate some squid to catch for bait. A good depth range to locate the squid, white seabass and yellowtail has been in 80 to 95 feet of water.            

Catalina Island has also been producing some flurries of white seabass and yellowtail action. The best zone has been along the back side eastern part of the Island while fishing between the V’s and the Palisades. There is squid in this zone and a good depth to locate the squid and the game fish with the squid has been in 14 to 18 fathoms of water.  West Cove has also been producing some action on the white seabass and yellowtail for those choosing to fish on the back side western part of the Island.            
San Clemente Island has been producing better action lately and has been providing some flurries of yellowtail action along with an occasional white seabass. The 9 Fathom Spot and the Runway have been the best areas up by the west end of the Island and Pyramid Cove has been the best zone at the eastern part of the Island. The best area for the yellowtail has been fishing the ridges outside Pyramid Cove where there have been yellowtail biting in 18 to 22 fathoms of water. Live squid and yo-yo iron have both been effective baits for the yellowtail and it has been best to bring squid over to San Clemente Island from Catalina or the mainland.            

With yellowtail biting since early January and with yellowfin tuna starting to show in the month of May, the 2014 fishing season is off to a remarkable start. With that kind of a start you can let your imagination run as to what the next few months might provide in the way of fun fishing. 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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