Spring officially arrived on March 20 and the saltwater fishing readily broke out into a springtime pattern of action with bluefin tuna reported from the 60 Mile Bank, yellowtail bird schools providing surface iron action below Los Coronado Islands and calico bass and yellowtail biting at Catalina Island. Water temperatures are up into the 62- to 64-degree range and prospects are looking favorable for yet another fine season of saltwater fishing in 2016.
During the past several weeks bluefin tuna have been reported in several areas with a 45-pound or more bluefin being caught outside of Punta Colnett three weeks ago aboard Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing. There have been some bluefin tuna around but without many boats actually out fishing offshore waters it has been hard to know for certain what might be around and biting.
The most exciting – and most recent – report came in on Sunday while I was at the Fred Hall Show in Del Mar, when Bob Hoose and Steve Carson of Pure Fishing, Penn Reels and Berkley Tackle reported getting a photo and text message from a friend fishing out at the 60 Mile Bank and reported catching six of the 15-pound-plus bluefin tuna. Time will tell but anglers are hopeful this is the start of what will be a sustained run of bluefin tuna.
The type of fishing that has picked up sharply with the arrival of spring has been the yellowtail fishing below Los Coronado Islands. Not only are the yellowtail biting well they have changed their habits and are now being located on the surface under spots of working birds. When the yellowtail are up and working on the surface it makes it much easier for boats without scanning sonar to be able to locate the fish. This surface activity is a certain sign of the spring season when compared to the winter time pattern of fishing when most of the yellowtail are located in the lower half of the water column via the use of scanning sonar.
Private boater Craig Boegler of Gooey Duck reported a recent trip where he fished the yellowtail below Los Coronado Islands and did very well on quality sized fish. Boegler had a fantastic trip and reportedly caught 15 large yellowtail ranging from 18 to 35 pounds. Most of their yellowtail were within the 18- to 26-pound range. He said they had a 30-pound fish and a 35-pound fish to top off their catch.
Sportboats have also been doing very well on the yellowtail while fishing below Los Coronado Islands with most of the yellowtail action coming from fishing bird schools being found between the Rockpile and the Finger Bank. The fishing on March 20 saw near-limit to limit yellowtail fishing for the three-quarter-day trips fishing below the Islands. A three-quarter day trip on San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing returned with limits of yellowtail as 20 anglers caught 100 yellowtail. The first day of spring also saw limits of yellowtail caught aboard Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing with 11 anglers catching 55 yellowtail. Malihini out of H&M Landing fished a three-quarter-day trip the same day and had limits of yellowtail with 23 anglers catching 115 yellowtail. H&M Landing also had Vendetta fishing a three-quarter-day trip on March 20 and found very good yellowtail action with 10 anglers catching 39 yellowtail.
There are also yellowtail biting at spots along the San Diego County coast with the upper end of La Jolla being the best zone while fishing the area of Northwest. The yellowtail bite is scratchy but there are some fish being caught each day and most are big bruiser sized yellowtail up in the 20- to 35-pound class. The yellowtail are biting on yo-yoed iron and on mackerel that are fished on a dropper loop rig. There are also some yellowtail starting to show on the surface to where surface iron and flylined live baits might start producing yellowtail sometime soon as well.
There are also a few yellowtail biting in north San Diego County waters with the hard bottom rockfish grounds outside of Box Canyon being another zone that has been producing occasional action on large yellowtail. The yellowtail at Box Canyon have been found in the lower half of the water column by locating meter marks and sonar marks. Once located the yellowtail have been biting on yo-yoed iron and sardines or mackerel that are fished deep on a dropper loop rig.
Catalina Island has also seen the fishing break out into a springtime pattern and produced good fishing for yellowtail and calico bass. Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported excellent fishing for a mix of yellowtail, calico bass and rockfish during a recent trip to kelp bed areas along the back side of Catalina.
Boats fishing hard bottom and structure areas up and down the San Diego County coast continue to find a nice mix of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and assorted rockfish biting. There has been some green water along the immediate coast making this fishing a bit tougher at times, but overall, the bite has held up pretty well despite the off color water.
Productive areas for rockfish and bass in San Diego County from north to south have been Box Canyon, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside, the Buccaneer and Anderson Pipelines, Leucadia, Del Mar, La Jolla, the 270, the Green Tank, the Point Loma Pipeline, the hard bottom outside of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Imperial Beach Pipeline and the International Reef.
Spring has arrived and it is time to start thinking about making that first fishing trip of the season if you have not done so already. The season is here! 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 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.