Steady Rockfish Action Continues — with a Chance at Yellowtail and WSB

By: Bob Vanian

Skippers fishing areas along the San Diego County coast and throughout Southern California have been happy to have rockfish back on the menu, after the annual closure was lifted March 1.

Boats fishing areas along the San Diego area coast have generally been reporting good numbers of assorted rockfish biting. That bite often includes a nice mix of reds and salmon grouper.

Productive hard-bottom and structure areas for the rockfish (from south to north) include the International Reef, the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard-bottom area outside the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Jetty Kelp outside Mission Bay, the hard-bottom area outside Pacific Beach (located below the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla and at hard-bottom areas outside the upper end of La Jolla, Encinitas, Leucadia and Box Canyon.

In addition to rockfish, there have been some bass and sculpin biting — along with an occasional bonus yellowtail or white seabass.

Yellowtail have been a possibility in a few different areas, in both Mexico and California waters. In Mexican waters, a few yellowtail have been reported biting at the San Miguel Reef outside of Ensenada, as well as around North Island at Los Coronados. Boats fishing for yellowtail on the U.S. side of the border have seen occasional success while fishing in the La Jolla and Pacific Beach region.

Private boater Mike Kraus of Black Jack fished a recent trip out of Marina Coral in Ensenada and reported that he and a friend put together a catch that included three yellowtail. All the yellowtail were caught on yo-yoed iron while fishing in about 170 feet of water, and Kraus said that they were good-sized yellowtail weighing in excess of 20 pounds. The biggest of their three yellowtail weighed in at 26 pounds.

Boats fishing the waters around Los Coronados islands have been reporting occasional yellowtail action on what have mostly been 15- to 25-pound fish. Most of the yellowtail activity has been reported by anglers stopping on scanning sonar meter marks found around North Island during the early morning hours.

Yo-yoed iron has been the best way to get a bite from a yellowtail, and there has also been a bit of action reported from fishing deep with a sardine on a dropper-loop rig. A bit of warming water might be all it takes to get a better bite going around Los Coronados.

The La Jolla and Pacific Beach region have also been holding some yellowtail — and every once in a while, someone catches a nice-sized fish. Some of the bigger yellows have gone up into the 35- to 40-pound range.

The yellows in this region have been biting on yo-yoed iron and have also been biting on live squid or fresh dead squid that are fished deep on a dropper-loop rig. The best spots have been outside the upper end of La Jolla in 15- to 20-fathom depths, as well as outside Pacific Beach while fishing over a hard-bottom area located just below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, in 18 to 22 fathoms of water.

White seabass have also been a possibility in a couple of areas where bait-size squid can be caught at night. There have been some squid off Pacific Beach for anglers fishing below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, in the 12- to 15-fathom depths.

There have also been some squid caught at the upper end of La Jolla by anglers fishing outside of the MLPA closure area, in 12 to 15 fathoms of water.

The third zone where anglers have found some squid to catch for bait at night is offshore between San Onofre and the border check station, in 14- to 18-fathom depths.

The best chance at catching white seabass has been while fishing the area where you might locate squid, in the dark or early morning daylight hours.

In addition to a chance at a yellowtail, boats fishing around Los Coronados have been finding good numbers of assorted rockfish biting — and they usually include a good percentage of reds and salmon grouper, and an occasional bonus lingcod.

The outer ridges of the South Kelp Ridge have been productive for anglers fishing in 25- to 40-fathom depths. Another productive zone has been the hard-bottom area to the north of North Island, in 25 to 35 fathoms of water.

If you want to try some deeper-water fishing, good reports have been coming in from boats fishing the lower end of the 9-Mile Bank — on the Mexican side of the border, in 60 to 90 fathoms of water.

The spring surface season is fast approaching and with a few white seabass and yellowtail biting we are seeing some glimpses of what is likely to be ahead. While we wait for more of these spring time fish to start biting there are plenty of rockfish biting to keep you busy and put some great eating fillets on the table. 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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