Southern California anglers cling on to remainder of 2018 offshore fishing season

SAN DIEGO — It is the middle of December and the 2018 Southern California offshore fishing is still in play. The early part of December has seen bluefin, yellowfin, skipjack, yellowtail and striped marlin remain as possible bites. Southern California experienced three northern storms during the past few weeks, which knocked down these bites. There are still some of these warm water offshore fish to be found in our local waters, however.

The last weather system vacated Southern California just ahead of Dec. 8 and 9. Once the weather system moved on the weather conditions were nice enough that some boats were able to go offshore and do some looking around. Bluefin had been providing most of the offshore action for boats fishing to the south-southeast of the Cortes Bank prior to the storm and after the storm boats returned to try the same area. The first boat I know to go back to the bluefin grounds was Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing; anglers caught three bluefin on a Dec. 7 trip.

There were several sportboats fishing the area to the east-southeast of the Cortes Bank on Dec. 8 and the bluefin fishing was found to be slow that day. I do not know of any bluefin being caught. With the slowing of the bluefin bite to the east-southeast of the Cortes Bank boats spread out and looked at some other areas such as the Mushroom Bank, Worm Bank and 60 Mile Bank. Bluefin action was absent, but there were some kelp paddie yellowtail biting along with a few skipjack.

Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing had 16 anglers on a 1.5-day trip, Dec. 8; they caught 26 yellowtails and two skipjack. Point Loma Sportfishing had New Lo-An out fishing a 1.5-day trip with 30 anglers catching 46 yellowtails.

The water temperature remains 64 to 65 degrees, which is warm enough to hold bluefin. I am wondering if some bluefin will begin to show around the 60 Mile Bank like they did around this time in 2017? Most of the bluefin being caught during the past couple of weeks have been in the 20- to 40-pound range and originated from stopping on sonar marks. Sardines have been the best bait for the bluefin with Flat Fall jigs also producing some action. Occasionally a boat brings some live squid to the bluefin grounds and using live squid for bait has also produced some action.

There are also still a few tuna around in more local offshore waters within 25 miles or so of the coast. There have also been occasional bluefin sightings in the area of the 9 Mile Bank, 302 Spot, 224 Spot and 182 Spot. On Nov. 9 there were a couple of private boaters out looking for tuna at the 9 Mile Bank, 302 Spot, 224 Spot and 182 Spot. One skipper reported getting some light meter marks of tuna he found with a school of porpoise. He was confident he was metering tuna but was not able to get them to bite. The other skipper reported finding a kelp paddie producing a few yellowtails but I do not believe he found any tuna activity. There are still a few tuna around in offshore waters within 25 miles of the coast but to catch one, it sounds like you really have to be fortunate to be at the right spot at the right time.

Striped marlin have been holding in tight to the East End of Catalina in recent weeks and there were a few boats out fishing on Dec. 8 and 9. The water temperature was running between 63.5 and 64 degrees and a few marlins were still in the area. There were a couple of feeders seen while fishing the waters off the East End Light and off Church Rock but I do not know of anyone getting a bite over the weekend.

Most of the marlin action over the past few weeks has been found while fishing in the 40 to 100 fathom depths in an area ranging from the Rock Quarry over to Church Rock. Much of the action has originated on the troll with occasional action also found from baiting sleepers, feeders and tailers.

There were a few boats out fishing around Los Coronado Islands on Dec. 8 and 9. They found some bonito and rockfish biting but there was no yellowtail action reported. There were bonito biting at the Middle Grounds, around North Island and at the South Kelp Ridge with the Middle Grounds being the best. Try for rockfish at the South Kelp Ridge below South Island as well as at the hard bottom to the north and northwest of North Island. The bonito have been mostly nice sized 4- to 8-pound fish, biting well on sardines and small chrome jigs.

The fishing along the San Diego area coast has seen most boats transitioning into a rockfish mode, but there have also been some bass biting along with a chance at finding some bonito action or scratching out a halibut. The yellowtail fishing has been slow. Hard bottom and structure areas have been best for the bass and rockfish and the best chance at finding some bonito action has been while fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla or around the Whistler Buoy off Point Loma.

The 2018 offshore fishing season is still alive but the offshore fishing has been on the decline since the recent series of storms. Even though their numbers appear to be fading, there are still some tuna, yellowtail and marlin in the picture and that is remarkably good news to be able to report seeing how we are in the middle of December! 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 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


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