When one is typically talking about catching bluefin, yellowfin and yellowtail in Southern California and Northern Baja California waters it would be reasonable to assume this type of fishing is going on during the summer months. That is not the case this year as we are off to a early start to the offshore fishing season with El Niño water conditions producing all three of these species during the middle of April.
Yellowfin tuna are not plentiful as of yet, but the few that are being caught are of noteworthy size. Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing ran a recent overnight trip to fish the offshore waters outside of Ensenada, Mexico and had a fine trip on quality sized tuna with 34 anglers catching 36 bluefin and three yellowfin. Fisherman’s Landing reported the yellowfin were in the 50- to 60-pound range and bluefin were running from 50 to 80 pounds. That is certainly some good fishing on quality sized bluefin and yellowfin!
The two areas currently producing bluefin (along with a chance at yellowfin) are the 60 Mile Bank and the deep water outside of the Banda Bank, which is located outside of Ensenada. Areas where bluefin were found about a week ago have since seen the fishing turn scratchy include the 209 Spot, 312 Spot, 181 Spot, 182 Spot, 9 Mile Bank, Kidney Bank, 371 Bank and 475 Knuckle.
The bluefin biting out at the 60 Mile Bank have been the 15- to 25-pound fish and caught by drifting with sardines around meter marks or sonar marks being found in the deep water around the upper high spot. Using live bait outfits with 15- to 25-pound test line with fluorocarbon leaders has been a good way to go for the bluefin around the 60 Mile Bank.
In areas other than the 60 Mile Bank, most of the bluefin tuna have been caught by stopping alongside of spots of breaking fish and fishing with surface iron, or the thin metal blade style yo-yo iron such as a Colt Sniper, Flat Fall, Megabait or Laser Minnow. The Salas 7X light jig has been a good way to go for surface iron.
When using iron for the bluefin it has been a good idea to use a single hook rigged jig rather than a treble hook rigged jig. The single hooks tend to be stronger and have a better chance of not pulling out of the fish after hookup. The best chance at hooking a bluefin on the iron is usually when first approaching the school of breaking fish. At times the spots of breaking tuna respond to the chum and come to the boat. When they approach the boat, sardines have been effective for the bluefin and have also produced an occasional yellowfin.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast remains good at hard bottom and structure spots producing a mix of rockfish, bass and sculpin. Additionally there has been some improving halibut action reported by boats fishing off Imperial Beach and a few nice sized yellowtail continue to bite at La Jolla.
Productive areas for rockfish, bass and sculpin in San Diego County waters listed from north to south have been Box Canyon, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside, the Buccaneer and Anderson Pipelines, Leucadia, Del Mar, the 270, the Green Tank, the Point Loma Pipeline, the hard bottom outside of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma and the Imperial Beach Pipeline.
The offshore fishing season is underway much earlier than what might be considered to be “normal” during a traditional year. We are still enjoying El Niño water conditions and I hope you get a chance to get out on the water and sample the early season 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 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 email@example.com.