By: Bob Vanian
We are getting late into the 2012 offshore fishing season, but in evaluating the fishing on its own merit and without regard to what the calendar reads, one might think it was more like midsummer than late fall fishing. The water temperatures are holding at 68 to 69.5 degrees at a lot of the offshore fishing banks below San Diego — and as long as northern storms with a lot of wind stay away, we could see great offshore fishing continue a good while longer.
Winter always wins the battle of the seasons, eventually. But until that happens, anglers who are currently taking advantage of the late-season offshore fishing opportunities available in waters within one-day range of Point Loma are most often being rewarded by catches that can include yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, dorado and yellowtail.
The yellowfin tuna and dorado have been biting best in spots that are between 60 to 75 miles from Point Loma. Productive offshore banks and trenches have been the 238 Spot, 450 Spot, 295 Bank, Double 220 Bank, 1010 Trench, 1067 Trench and 213 Bank.
There are also a few yellowfin and dorado, and some good numbers of yellowtail biting at spots within 40 miles of Point Loma. Boats fishing these more local offshore banks are finding the best action while fishing between the 425 Bank and the Upper Hidden Bank.
Bluefin tuna have been a hit-or-miss proposition, but boats fishing out by the 213 Bank, 1010 Trench and 1067 Trench have had a chance at finding some biting bluefin tuna. Yellowtail catches have been widespread, near kelp paddies from the 425 Bank outside of Los Coronados islands down to the areas where the bluefin and yellowfin are biting that are 70-plus miles south of Point Loma, providing a chance at finding a wide-open yellowtail bite.
The yellowfin tuna have been mixed-size fish from 14 to 50 pounds. Recent days have seen an increase in some of the larger 30- to 50-pound yellowfin showing in the catch.
The bluefin tuna have been mostly in the 18- to 45-pound class. Most of the dorado have been running 12 to 18 pounds, with a few bigger fish to 25 pounds in the mix. Most of the yellowtail are in the 4- to 8-pound range, with some bigger fish to 20 pounds also occasionally showing in the mix.
Some recent catch reports start with private boater David Dudley of Njord, who fished the 1067 Trench and the area of the Saddle between the 1067 Trench and the 1010 Trench. Dudley reported catching three yellowfin tuna, seven dorado and limits of yellowtail, with a lot of additional yellowtail that were caught and released.
One of Dudley’s better stops was from a kelp paddy that produced two yellowfin tuna, two dorado and lots of yellowtail, outside of the 1067 Trench — 72 miles, 201 degrees from Point Loma. He also reported getting scattered yellowfin and dorado jig strikes while fishing the Saddle area — 72 miles, 193 degrees from Point Loma.
He had another good kelp paddy stop, finishing off a productive day of fishing. It produced more dorado and yellowtail — 68 miles, 195 degrees from Point Loma.
Private boater Mike Kraus of Black Jack reported about a recent trip out of Marina Coral in Ensenada, Mexico. Kraus and others aboard caught seven yellowfin tuna and eight yellowtail while fishing the region of the 450 Spot — 70 miles, 165 degrees from Point Loma. Kraus said that most of his bait died, but that they were able to catch both yellowfin and yellowtail on dead bait and their trolling feathers. Kraus reported that their yellowfin tuna were in the 15- to 16-pound range.
He talked to another angler at the fish cleaning table at Marina Coral who had caught some larger yellowfin while fishing around the 238 Spot. The boat caught 12 yellowfin tuna that were mostly 20-pound fish, and their catch also included two larger 30- and 35-pound yellowfin. The 238 Spot is located on the Inner Bank outside of Ensenada — 66 miles, 167 degrees from Point Loma.
Private boater Herb Hatanaka of Phoenix 29 reported getting into some of the larger yellowfin tuna on a recent trip to fish the Saddle area, between the 1067 Trench and the 1010 Trench. He was working an area around 65 miles, 197 degrees from Point Loma, and those aboard his boat caught four large yellowfin tuna and released lots of yellowtail.
Their catch of yellowfin tuna was highlighted by two fish that he conservatively estimated at 50 pounds each. Their other two yellowfin were also quality-size fish that were in the 30-pound class.
They caught all their yellowfin tuna on the troll, and the trolling strikes were coming on black and purple Sevenstrand albacore feathers and on cedar plugs.
Private boater Tom Golding of Last Buck reported fishing a recent trip to the 1067 Trench, 1010 Trench and Double 220 Bank. Anglers aboard his boat caught four yellowfin tuna, several dorado and a bunch of yellowtail and skipjack.
They caught two of their yellowfin from a trolling stop at the Saddle, while fishing 67 miles, 196 degrees from Point Loma. The two yellowfin they caught in this stop were nice-size fish — with one weighing 18 pounds and with the other estimated to be 40 to 45 pounds.
They had another yellowfin stop that produced two more yellowfin, above the 1067 Trench — 68 miles, 198 degrees from Point Loma. One more good stop late in the day came from a kelp paddy above the Double 220 Bank — 64 miles, 189 degrees from Point Loma — that produced several dorado and lots of yellowtail.
Private boater Scott Zachary of Hole reported about fishing a trip to the more local offshore banks below and outside of Los Coronados islands. Zachary was fishing waters within 40 miles of Point Loma and said that they found two kelp paddies that produced very good yellowtail action. They easily caught their limits of yellowtail and released many more.
Their best kelp paddy produced 40-plus yellowtail. It was found near the Upper Hidden Bank — 39 miles, 181 degrees from Point Loma. Their second wide-open kelp paddy stop was located below the 425 Bank — 28 miles, 183 degrees from Point Loma.
The fishing along the San Diego area coast has been highlighted by a run of yellowtail, white seabass and halibut that have been biting at the area below the Marine Life Protection Act-mandated Marine Protected Area closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla. The best action has been found while fishing just below the closure’s lower boundary line, an area roughly outside the Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach.
Please refer to the MLPA Marine Protected Area maps at the Department of Fish and Game website — dfg.ca.gov — which show latitude and longitude coordinates of all the MLPA closure areas.
Most skippers have been catching live squid for bait at night, and then fishing for game fish in the same area where they found the squid. On occasion, it has also been possible to jig squid for bait during the early morning and the evening daylight hours. The best depth for both game fish and squid has been in 14 to 15 fathoms of water.
There have been a few white seabass biting in the dark, but the best time for yellowtail, halibut and white seabass has been in early morning. There are no big numbers of white seabass, yellowtail or halibut biting, but the fish being caught have been quality-size fish.
White seabass catches have been running to 45 pounds, most of the yellowtail have been in the 15- to 30-pound range and the halibut have been as large as 30-plus pounds.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reported very good late season bass fishing while working areas below Oceanside Harbor. He said they have seen good catches of mixed calico bass and sand bass, and they have also been finding a nice mix of sheephead, halibut and other assorted bottomfish biting.
Cacciola reported lots of squid are available to catch for bait in North San Diego County waters. Squid have been found in areas ranging from Torrey Pines up to Carlsbad.
He said they have been using whole fresh dead squid and strips of the fresh dead squid, and that they have been finding their best action while fishing hard-bottom areas in 65 to 75 feet of water.
On his most recent trip, Cacciola reported fishing off South Carlsbad and Moonlight Beach. He reported that 17 anglers caught 58 sand bass, 29 calico bass, 13 sheephead, four whitefish, five rockfish, a 10-pound halibut and two black seabass that were released.
Cacciola believes that the water conditions are still favorable for the good fishing to continue a while longer, with clean green 68- to 69-degree water in the areas they have been fishing.
The 2012 fishing season has been a good one — and it is not over yet! Take advantage of the good fishing we are being blessed with while the fish are still around and biting. 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 976bite.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.