By: Bob Vanian
The fishing season can often be better in the fall months than in the summer. A lot of anglers are bracing themselves for what could be the best part of what has already been a fantastic offshore fishing season. Wahoo and blue marlin have already been a major part of the 2014 Southern California offshore fishing season’s story. Who knows what might happen as fish tend to group up and go on feeding frenzies as the water begins to cool in the fall.
If you have not yet heard, a 50.1-pound wahoo was caught aboard private boat Joker on Saturday, Aug. 30. George Garrett was at the helm, Eric Kin was the angler and Ted Royal did the gaffing. This might have been the first wahoo ever caught in Southern California waters. The wahoo was reported to have been caught on a size 20 Rapala in a sardine color combination while fishing into the east of the 267 Spot. In addition to the wahoo, more than one blue marlin sighting has been reported in the area of the 312 Spot outside of Carlsbad.
Most of the yellowfin tuna have been in the 8- to 30-pound range with some bigger fish that might actually be bigeye tuna reported up to 60 pounds. The dorado has been nice sized fish running from 10 to 35 pounds. The offshore yellowtails have mostly been 3- to 6-pound fish with some bigger yellows to around 12 pounds being caught as well. Most of the bluefin came from U.S. waters by boats on multi-day trips that have been fishing at the Cortes Bank and the bluefin have been in the 35- to 60-pound range. Bluefin tuna caught in Mexican waters remain illegal to keep due to a closure invoked by the Mexican government.
The tuna action has been found in many ways with trolling strikes, kelp paddies, spots of puddling fish, meter marks, working tern birds, porpoise schools and spots of breaking fish all leading to action. Sometimes skippers also report action by simply stopping the boat and drifting around some of the high spots at some of the banks holding fish. This tends to be an effective technique when you know you are in an area where fish are up and active.
There are tuna biting over a huge area of ocean with good fishing being reported from the waters around and about Catalina and San Clemente islands on down to the offshore banks outside of Ensenada and below. Boats on multi-day trips have also been fishing out at the Cortes Bank where there are yellowfin tuna in the 25-to 40-pound plus range and bluefin tuna that are in the 35- to 50-pound range. These tunas have been biting while drifting around the 100 fathom curve outside of the bank.
The best areas for the tuna fishing up in more northern offshore waters in the Catalina Island and San Clemente Island regions have been the 267 Spot, the 209 Spot, the Slide, the area between the 209 Spot and the 277 Spot, the 277 Spot and the area about half way between the 277 Spot and the 289 Spot. The best areas for boats fishing further south have been the 182 Spot, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 230 Spot, the 371 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank and the Lower Hidden Bank.
Some reports from the past few days of fishing start with a report from Capt. Scott Meisel of Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing who reported about a recent 1.5-day trip where 35 anglers caught 143 yellowfin tuna, 43 dorado and six yellowtail. In addition to the great tuna and dorado fishing, Meisel reported that one of the highlights of the day was when they hooked two marlin on live bait after getting a dorado trolling strike. He was encouraged about the prospects for the upcoming fall fishing season and felt it was a great sign that their best bait stops have started to come from kelp paddies.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing in Oceanside has also been running some offshore three-quarter day trips and reports catching a mix of tuna, yellowtail and dorado while fishing areas between Oceanside and the 209 Spot as well as the zone outside of the stretch of coast between Camp Pendleton and San Onofre. On his most recent three-quarter day trip Cacciola found excellent kelp paddie yellowtail fishing and had 65 anglers catch 13 yellowtail and 2 dorado.
Cacciola also reports very good calico bass fishing along the local coast along with a mix of bonito, sand bass, barracuda, white seabass and yellowtail. He reports finding the good coastal kelp bed fishing while working kelp bed areas between South Carlsbad and Solana Beach.
Private boater Ray Millman of Go The Distance reported finding an incredible kelp paddie bite for a mix of yellowfin tuna, dorado, yellowtail and skipjack. He reported limiting out on yellowfin tuna, and caught six dorados, several yellowtails and several skipjacks. The yellowfin tuna bite was nonstop. Millman reported he caught and released a bunch of additional yellowfin tuna in addition to keeping their limits. The dorados were impressive sized fish with the largest weighing 25 pounds. Millman found the type of kelp paddie anglers dream about while he was fishing above the Upper Hidden Bank at 35 miles189 degrees from Point Loma. It was a very large kelp paddie he estimated at 70 feet long.
Private boater Tony Sabatino of Jersey Devil reported about fishing a weekend tuna trip to the waters around Catalina and San Clemente Islands. On Saturday, Sept. 6 they caught 11 yellowfin tuna and had their best action while fishing a kelp paddie that he found between the 277 Spot and the Mackerel Bank at 59 miles 286 degrees from Point Loma. On Sunday Sept. 7, Sabatino went back to the same area and caught two yellowfin tuna on the troll before leaving due to rough weather conditions.
Private boater Marcus Hale of Old Blue reported great fishing for yellowfin tuna and Dorado while fishing the northwest edges of the 371 Bank at 28 miles 211 degrees from Point Loma. It was an outstanding bite from kelp paddies in the area and they caught limits of yellowfin tuna and eight dorado.
Capt. Brandon Killian of the six pack charter yacht Prime Time with Prime Time Sportfishing reported fishing a recent 1.5-day trip and catching limits of yellowfin tuna, three skipjacks and five yellowtails. The yellowfin fishing was red hot and Killian reported he was able to keep the limits and catch and release a bunch of additional yellowfin tunas.
Killian started the day by fishing the area outside of the 295 Bank and he reported catching a few yellowfins, yellowtails and skipjacks in that zone. The bite by the 295 Bank started to fade out as the morning progressed so he headed back up the line to try and find something better. What he found was a huge meter mark that turned into a wide open yellowfin tuna bait stop after stopping on the meter mark. Just after stopping his boat’s engine, Killian reported the yellowfins bit all four of the trolling jigs as they were sinking. What followed was a frantic yellowfin tuna bite on live bait. Killian said the yellowfins were biting so wide open that he caught one that bit a bare hook!
Private boater Capt. Billy of Efishnsea reported about fishing the Kidney Bank and the 230 Spot. He worked the area of the 230 Spot and said they stopped on a lot of empty kelp paddies and that they found a few paddies where they were able to catch a few small yellowtails and an 18-pound dorado. The lone tuna they caught bit on a marlin jig while they were trolling back in toward Mission Bay. The way back in to Mission Bay also provided the catch that made their otherwise scratchy bite fishing trip a grand success. Capt. Billy caught a beautiful 27-pound Dorado that bit from a kelp paddie that he found just 12.5 miles outside of Mission Bay. The 27-pound Dorado was Capt. Billy’s personal best ever Dorado!
Private boater Brad Stoffers of Amy Ray fished the area of the 277 Spot and reported catching 10 yellowfin tuna. They were good sized yellowfin that went to 30 pounds and he reported he found action from stopping on spots of working birds and using live bait. The best bite area was found while fishing a short way into the east of the 277 Spot and was at 52 miles 296 degrees from Point Loma.
Boats fishing for marlin at spots off the west end of Catalina Island continue to find good action while fishing around and about spots such as the Osborn Bank, the Boot, the 172 Spot and the 125 Spot. Sleepers and tailers that are baited with mackerel have led to a good a percentage of the hookups. Blind jig strikes account for quite a few hookups as well. The area around and between the 125 Spot and the 172 Spot has been active. My estimation is that about 10 marlin were caught and released from these areas last weekend. Other areas where recent scattered marlin action has been reported in the Catalina region are the Avalon Bank, the 277 Spot, the 14 Mile Bank and the 209 Spot.
Marlin action has improved in the San Diego area at spots such as the 182 Spot, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot and the 371 Bank. The Snooper had a fantastic day of marlin fishing in catching and releasing three marlins, with a good percentage of its action coming from the region of the 371 Bank. Maurice Smith was out fishing with Jon Epsten of Dos Hermanos. Smith reported that Epsten caught and released a marlin from a jig strike they found while fishing the deep water above the 224 Spot. John Plaziak was out fishing with Fred Larson and Art Ponce aboard Larson’s boat Squared Away. Plazniak reported that Larson caught and released a marlin while fishing the northwestern edges of the 371 Bank.
I hope you get out there as often as possible and take advantage of the tremendous fishing season we are having. 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 www.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.