The early start to the 2016 Southern California offshore fishing season has proved not to be a flash in the pan. The tuna bite started back in late March and has held up through the first part of May with opportunities to catch bluefin continuing well ahead of what one would consider to be the traditional start to the tuna fishing season (which was some time in the June or July).
The bluefin bite has held up pretty well through some periods of stormy weather and currently looks to be on the upswing. The most recent bluefin catch report was from May 1, when Old Glory out of H&M Landing ran an overnight trip and had 16 anglers catch 17 bluefin tuna and six bonito.
Most of the recent bluefin catches have come from areas within 40 miles of Point Loma by boats fishing areas such as the 500 fathom curve outside of the stretch between the Rockpile and the Finger Bank, the 425 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank and the 475 Knuckle. Most of the bluefin caught in this sector have been quality sized 50- to 60-pound fish and have come from stopping on spots of breaking fish or from stopping on meter marks or sonar marks that are often found near working birds. Surface iron, yo-yo iron, sardines and mackerel have all been working for the bluefin tuna.
A couple of the better fish counts recently are from the fishing on April 30, when Chubasco II with Chubasco 2 Sportfishing was out on a three-quarter day trip with 13 anglers catching limits of 65 yellowtail. San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing had an outstanding day of yellowtail fishing with 31 anglers on a three-quarter day trip posting a count of 111 yellowtail.
The surface fishing along the San Diego County coast has been picking up in recent days and anglers fishing hard bottom, structure and kelp bed areas are finding a mix of yellowtail, calico bass, sand bass, rockfish, sculpin and halibut biting.
The biggest change for the increase in the surface fishing action is that calico bass and yellowtail are becoming active at some of the coastal kelp bed areas. The Point Loma Kelp beds have started to produce better numbers of calico bass for boats fishing the edges of the kelp beds at areas such as the Lighthouse, the Green Tank and Point Loma College. There was also a recent showing of yellowtail reported in the area outside of the kelp off Point Loma College.
At La Jolla a few yellowtail have been biting in recent weeks but the bite has seen recent improvement for boats fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla in the 15 to 25 fathom depths. Look for spots of working tern birds, meter marks and sonar marks to locate the fish in this zone. Some yellowtail action has also been reported while sitting on the anchor and chumming the fish to the boat with live sardines or anchovies.
The La Jolla yellowtail are mostly large fish that have been running up in the 20- to 35-pound range. Surface iron, yo-yo iron, live mackerel and live sardines have been effective for the yellowtail with the live mackerel generally being the preferred bait.
The fishing on May 1 saw New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing run two half-day trips where 67 anglers combined to catch 11 yellowtail, one sculpin, one lingcod, 11 reds and 133 rockfish. Chubasco II with Chubasco 2 Sportfishing run a half-day trip with 17 anglers that caught three yellowtail, three calico bass, one lingcod, two sculpin and 23 rockfish.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing reported that the kelp beds at Leucadia and Solana Beach were very good for calico bass on May 1. He donated the May 1 trip to Lake Elsinore High School to raise funds for a $2,000 college scholarship program to honor of deceased U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Eric Seaman who was killed along with five other Marines during a overseas rescue mission.
Private boater Miguel Martinez of Dos Gringos reported about fishing aboard Get Knotty in the Southwestern Yacht Club’s 46th annual Bottom Fishing Tournament to benefit the ElderHelp charity. Martinez reported catching 32 assorted bottom fish. The top five rockfish were weighed in and totaled 22.9 pounds and placed first for the top weight in the tournament.
The 2016 fishing season is off and running in a big way and is currently getting better as the season progresses. 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.