Seasonal Groundfish Closure Means Anglers Focus on Other Species

By: Bob Vanian

Anglers fishing Southern California waters will once again need to deal with a seasonal two-month groundfish/rockfish closure, which will put most bottomfishing species off limits from Jan. 1 until the season reopens March 1.

Anglers can refer to California Department of Fish and Game Regulations for all the details about which species have just become illegal to take. The closure will have anglers focusing on wintertime species that remain legal to take, such as sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, halibut, yellowtail and white seabass. One good thing about a two-month closure is that it means that there will be an opener to look forward to, March 1.

This report is being prepared on New Year’s Eve — the day prior to the groundfish/rockfish closure going into effect. I can report to you about what has been caught in the days prior to the closure, and I will also try to project some of the changes skippers are likely to make in their approach to working different areas, to target the species that will remain legal to take during the two-month closure.

Boats fishing out of San Diego Bay have generally been finding their best fishing while working the Imperial Beach Pipeline, where there has been a mix of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, rockfish, reds and perch biting. Skippers will likely continue to fish the Imperial Beach Pipeline for bass, sculpin and perch. Some likely alternative choices would be to drift the sandy bottom adjacent to the kelp beds at Imperial Beach for a mix of sand bass and sculpin, and a chance at a halibut.

Other likely target areas might include fishing for sand bass and sculpin at the hard-bottom area southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, and fishing for calico bass, sand bass and sculpin at the hard-bottom area northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma.

Boats fishing out of Mission Bay have been working areas in La Jolla and Pacific Beach and have been catching a mixed bag of reds, rockfish, sand bass, calico bass and sculpin. One of the better areas has been in 15 to 19 fathoms of water at the hard-bottom zone located below the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) closed area at the lower end of La Jolla.

Another productive fishing zone has been outside of the upper end of La Jolla — in an area ranging from right outside of the kelp line, on out to 22 fathoms of water. There have also been reports of good fishing for deeper-water rockfish while fishing outside of La Jolla in 35- to 48-fathom depths.

The fishing for the yellowtail and white seabass has been scratchy, but every once in a while, someone manages to catch a really nice fish. The best fishing for yellowtail has been outside of the upper end of La Jolla. Every once in a while, someone hooks a yellowtail incidental to fishing for rockfish, and there is an occasional yellowtail hooked from a spot of breezing fish or from a meter mark. A good option would be to try surface iron, if you can get the jig to a spot of breezing fish before they sound. If the spot of breezing fish sounds before you get to them or if you locate a meter mark, the best bet would be to try yo-yoed iron.

Look for skippers to try for a mix of bass and sculpin while fishing hard-bottom areas in the shallower 10- to 15-fathom depths, along the outside edges of the kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla, and along the kelp at the upper middle part of La Jolla. Skippers fishing the La Jolla region are also likely to target halibut while drifting sandy-bottom areas outside Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, in 8 to 15 fathoms of water.

Boats fishing areas off the North San Diego County coastline have been finding a mix of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, rockfish and reds biting when anglers fish various hard-bottom and structure spots. Reports of productive fishing have come from boats fishing hard-bottom spots off Del Mar, Leucadia, Carlsbad and Box Canyon, as well as from boats fishing structure spots such as the Anderson and Buccaneer pipelines and the artificial reefs in front of Oceanside Harbor.

Look for skippers to try for bass and sculpin while fishing the structure of the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, and the artificial reefs in front of Oceanside Harbor. Skippers will also likely try drifting the sandy bottom adjacent to those structure spots, for halibut.

There should be plenty of fun fishing to target during the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure period. If you pick your days wisely, with regard to the weather conditions, you can go fishing and catch some very good-eating fish.

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 976-Bite at Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service over the phone at (619) 226-8218. He always welcomes your fish reports at that same phone number, or via email at

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