The first day of spring is not until March 19, but Southern California anglers have started to see spring-like surface fishing prior to the actual arrival of spring with a good yellowtail bite at the Coronado Islands and some bluefin biting offshore.
Bluefin have been around for much of the winter season and the past week has seen some bluefin activity being reported within 20 miles of Point Loma for boats fishing the area to the west of North Island and the area to the southwest of South Island. Not much is being caught from this area but there have been some spots of breaking bluefin seen within this zone.
Where there have been recent catches of bluefin tuna has been at the offshore waters outside of Punta Colnett. Sportboats fishing 1.5- and 2-day trips to the Punta Colnett area during the winter season normally target reds, rockfish, lingcod and yellowtail but the past couple of weeks have also been some bluefin tuna biting offshore. At times, some of the sportboat trips running down this way have spent part of their day focused on fishing offshore waters and have caught bluefin up to 120+ pounds.
The past Saturday of fishing saw Tomahawk out of Fisherman’s Landing out on a 1.5 day trip with 19 anglers who caught 13 bluefin tuna, limits of rockfish and 8 lingcod up to 22 pounds. Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing had 33 anglers fishing on a 1.5 day trip that caught 240 rockfish, 60 reds and 8 lingcod. The bluefin caught on Tomahawk were reported to be in the 70- to 90-pound class.
What has been another significant early sign of spring has been the improving yellowtail fishing around Los Coronado Islands. The yellowtail bite had been slow but took a big turn for the better on Thursday, Feb. 27, when San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing fished a full day trip and had 14 anglers catch 63 yellowtail, 10 reds and 1 bonito.
Private boater, Captain Bob Fletcher of Fletch reported that he was fishing aboard San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing when they made the catch that included 63 yellowtail. Fletcher reported about the trip and called it an excellent day of fishing in nice weather and said that the yellowtail were being caught from stopping on sonar marks and that most were caught on yo-yoed iron that was being fished right near the bottom. Fletcher said that it usually did not take long to find another school of fish to stop on and he said that the yellowtail were often times responding to the chummed sardines and would come up and boil around the boat.
The Rockpile area has been best for the yellowtail while fishing the area of the Rockpile proper and while working to the southwest, south and southeast of the Rockpile. Most of the yellowtail have been in the 14- to 18-pound class and the yellows have ranged in size to 20 pounds.
Seaforth Sportfishing reports there were also a few yellowtail caught on surface iron on Thursday’s trip aboard San Diego. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in blue and white, mint, and sardine colors. Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X, Salas 7X heavy and Salas 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white, blue and chrome and scrambled egg colors.
In addition to the yellowtail bite at the Rockpile there has also been additional yellowtail action in the waters around and about Los Coronado Islands. There was a recent report about a productive yellowtail kelp paddie in the area below the Coronado Canyon while fishing to the north of North Island and there have also been some yellowtail biting on trolled Rapalas at the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank.
The rest of the fishing around Los Coronado Islands has been good for an assortment of reds, rockfish, an occasional lingcod and a few bonito. Productive areas for the bottom fishing include hard bottom areas to the north, northeast and northwest of North Island while working in 25 to 55 fathoms of water. Also productive has been fishing the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank while keeping on the Mexico side of the border and fishing in the 60 to 80 fathom depths. Another productive rockfish zone around Los Coronado Islands has been fishing spots along the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in the 20 to 40 fathom depths.
The rockfish opener in Southern California waters was on March 1, but a lot of anglers stayed home due to the poor weather forecast with Small Craft Advisories being posted. Anglers have been anxious to get back out to the rockfish grounds and drop baits down to fish that have been closed to fishing for the past 2 months but a lot of anglers decided to wait due to the bad weather forecast for the opener.
There were some sportboats out on opening day giving it a try and they did find some good action. Premier out of H&M Landing fished two half day trips with 77 anglers who caught 410 whitefish, 136 rockfish, 7 sculpin, 1 sand bass and 1 sheephead. Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing fished a morning half day trip with 40 anglers who caught 148 rockfish, 8 sculpin, 2 sand bass, 2 sheephead and 1 calico bass.
Productive rockfish areas in the San Diego County region which are expected to produce some action following the 2-month rockfish closure include the International Reef located a short way above the Mexico border, hard bottom areas to the west, southwest and southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the hard bottom outside of the Green Tank at Point Loma, the 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the area outside of the lower and the upper ends of La Jolla, the ridge outside of Del Mar, the hard bottom outside of Leucadia, and Box Canyon.
The rest of the fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, perch and sculpin along with an occasional bonus halibut or yellowtail.
There have been occasional showings of yellowtail along the San Diego County coast but they remain inconsistent and unpredictable as to where and when. One sign to look for is that the schools of yellowtail are usually found in areas where there is a lot of bait. The two areas where the yellows have had a tendency to show in recent weeks have been in the region of the Imperial Beach Pipeline, and in an area ranging from outside of Mission Bay on up to the lower part of the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla. A good depth range to try and locate yellowtail has been in 18 to 30 fathoms of water.
The yellowtail along the coast have been mostly 18- to 25-pound fish and they have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks and fish that are up working on the surface under spots of diving birds. Once located, yo-yo iron, surface iron, mackerel and sardines have all been working for yellowtail. A surface iron that is cast to a spot of breaking fish before they sound has been working the best.
Productive areas for bass and sculpin have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #5 at Point Loma, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp while fishing below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.
Areas producing occasional halibut action along the San Diego County coast are the sandy bottom adjacent to the structure of the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside, the sandy bottom adjacent to the structure of the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, fishing in 180 to 220 feet of water at the sandy bottom outside of the Oceanside Pier, fishing the sandy bottom areas adjacent to the structure of the Yukon shipwreck and adjacent to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach and fishing the area between the Imperial Beach Pier and the Tijuana River. San Diego Bay is another place where some biting halibut have been found.
Spring will be here soon but Southern California anglers are already experiencing some spring like surface fishing for yellowtail and bluefin tuna. I hope you can get out on the water and get in on the early season fishing. 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.