Southern California’s rockfish opener is a success

SAN DIEGO—After the annual two-month rockfish fishing closure in Southern California waters came to an end at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 28, anglers dropped their collectives lines in the water to catch the bottom fish on March 1. Anglers are always anxious to be among the first to drop baits and lures down to fish spots untouched in two months and this year was no exception. A big question of concern for opening day was what the weather might be like as Southern California continues to see a steady series of weather systems passing through, which have brought rain, strong winds and high seas.

The good news in reporting to you about this year’s rockfish opener is Mother Nature gave anglers a pass on the weather conditions. Anglers fished in good weather conditions. More good news: there was good fishing to be found for reds and an assortment of rockfish in the nice weather.

Anglers need to know that there have been some changes in the rockfish/groundfish regulations and those changes can be found on the DFW website at:

One of the changes in the regulations that benefitting anglers is fishing for rockfish in places other than Cow Cod Conservation Areas is now allowed in depths up to 75 fathoms of water. Another such change is when fishing within Cow Cod Conservation Areas, fishing for rockfish species other than cow cod is allowed in depths of less than 40 fathoms of water. To make it clear, all cow cod still need to be released no matter where they are caught while fishing in Southern California waters.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with the Oceanside Sea Center and Sea Star Sportfishing reports Chubasco II from the Oceanside Sea Center fished a half-day trip to the Box Canyon region on the rockfish opener. Chubasco II reportedly had a very good trip, with 32 anglers catching 12 whitefish, 143 sculpin and 170 rockfish. The good fishing followed through to the weekend as Chubasco II, on March 3, ran two half-day trips with 24 anglers who combined to catch 145 rockfish, 68 sculpin and 26 whitefish.

Cacciola reported that some private boaters have been picking away at halibut while fishing in deep water outside of the Oceanside Pier. He said the boats targeting the halibut have been drifting in 150 to 200 feet of water.

Sea Watch out of Seaforth Sportfishing had 53 anglers on two half-day trips catch 167 reds and 137 rockfish, March 1. Sean at Point Loma Sportfishing reported Point Loma fished a morning half-day trip with 20 anglers and returned with 93 rockfish and four sculpin, also on March 1. Fisherman’s Landing had Dolphin fishing two half-day trips with 55 anglers combining to catch 101 rockfish, four sheephead, six sculpin, three sand bass and four calico bass. H&M Landing had Premier fishing two half-day trips with 49 anglers who combined to catch three sheephead, 16 sculpin, three sand bass and 146 rockfish. Helgren’s Sportfishing had two half-day trips aboard Electra fishing with 56 anglers who combined to catch 14 sculpin, 122 sand dabs, 11 whitefish, 26 rockfish and 64 reds.

Some of the best rockfish fishing areas in the San Diego region that are on the U.S. side of the Mexico border are the International Reef, the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the west and northwest of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, The 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia and Box Canyon.

In addition to the rockfish fishing along the San Diego County coast there are also some sand bass, sculpin and calico bass biting along with a few bonus halibut. Hard bottom and structure areas have been best for the bass and sculpin with productive areas being the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank, the Variety Kelp area located below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.

There have been a few halibut biting in coastal areas. Some productive halibut areas include the sandy bottom near the Aliso Pipeline off South Laguna Beach, the sandy bottom outside of the Oceanside Pier, the sandy bottom off South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower located outside of Mission Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck located outside of Mission Beach, San Diego Bay and while fishing sandy bottom areas outside of the Imperial Beach Pier.

A recent report from Los Coronado Islands is there was good fishing for reds and an assortment of rockfish but not much doing in the way of surface fishing action. Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing fished at Los Coronado Islands on March 1 and had 15 anglers on a full day trip catch 11 whitefish, four sheephead, 60 rockfish and 75 reds.

Good areas for the bottom fishing around Los Coronado Islands have been at the South Kelp Ridge while fishing in 25 to 40 fathoms of water and at the hard bottom areas to the north and northwest of North Island while fishing in 35 to 50 fathoms of water. There have been a few bonito biting around Los Coronado Islands in recent weeks and the best areas for a chance at finding some surface fishing action have been while fishing along the weather side of North Island and at the Middle Grounds.

The reports from boats fishing trips down the Mexican coast to the Punta Colnett area and below are pretty much the same as they have been in recent weeks with very good fishing reported for a mix of yellowtail, reds, lingcod and an assortment of rockfish.

The yellowtail fishing off Punta Colnett has been mostly the 15- to 25-pound class fish. Best bet for the yellowtail has been to try and find meter marks, sonar marks or spots of working birds to stop on. Once yellows are located, try yo-yoed iron or sardines fished on a dropper loop rig. The heavy Salas 6X and Salas 7X sized yo-yo jigs in scrambled egg color have been reported to be working best.

Pacific Voyager out of Seaforth Sportfishing that had 15 anglers on a 2.5-day trip catch 100 reds and 21 yellowtails on March 3. Seaforth Sportfishing also had Tomahawk fishing a 2.5-day trip on March 3 with 10 anglers who caught 100 rockfish, 100 whitefish, 100 reds, 16 sheephead, two lingcod and two yellowtails. Sea Adventure 80 out of H&M Landing had 27 anglers on a 2.5-day trip catch 504 rockfish, 20 calico bass, 15 lingcod, one halibut and one sheephead, also on March 3.

There is good fun fishing to be found and good weather days have been providing the good fishing between the weather systems. Anglers should watch the weather reports closely and pick the good weather days to do their fishing. This late winter season continues to provide good fun fishing and the first day of spring is not far away and arrives on March 20! 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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