By: Bob Vanian
SAN DIEGO — The 2014 fishing season is laying the groundwork to be labeled as a banner year as there have been yellowtail biting at Los Coronado Islands since early in January and the first bluefin tuna of the season was a big fish that was also caught early in the season on May 3. The bluefin tuna was caught aboard a 1.5 day offshore exploratory trip aboard Top Gun 80 out of H&M Landing and it was a nice big fish of 67 pounds that was caught by Christine Ferris Digaetano of Long Beach. Capt. Bobby Taft of Top Gun 80 also found yellowtail biting under kelp paddies on the trip and the fish count for their trip was 21 anglers catching 24 yellowtail and 1 bluefin tuna.
This was more than just one lonely lost bluefin tuna as they hooked 11 large bluefin in the stop that were all large fish. One of the bluefin was lost at gaff and was estimated to weigh more than 100 pounds. Two of the other hooked bluefin were lost when the anglers ran out of line and were “spooled”. The information I have is that the bluefin were hooked while fishing outside of the 1140 Finger at 87 miles from Point Loma. The tuna are here and the offshore season is underway.
In addition to the excitement about the yellowtail and bluefin action that was found offshore, there has been plenty to be excited about with regard to the ongoing yellowtail bite around Los Coronado Islands. Anglers have been experiencing some days of good action on what are mostly large 18 to 30 pound class yellowtail but the bite has a tendency to fluctuate and the past two days of fishing have seen the counts slip a bit to where the bite has been just fair.
Some sample fish counts from one of the better recent days of fishing saw Malihini out of H&M Landing have 29 anglers on a three-quarter day trip catch 50 yellowtail, three barracuda and two calico bass. The same day of fishing saw San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing have 37 anglers on a three-quarter day trip catch 94 yellowtail.
Private boater Alex Deridder of Fishfinder reported fishing two recent trips to Los Coronado Islands. On the first trip he and two friends caught 10 yellowtail and when they went back out two days later they caught nine more yellowtail. Deridder reported that their yellowtail ranged in size from 18 to 30 pounds and said that they were caught on slow trolled mackerel and on surface iron. On the first day of fishing they found their best action while working around balls of krill that they found around North Island and on the second day of fishing their best action was had while fishing below South Island at the South Kelp and the South Kelp Ridge.
Private boater Gary Lane of Reel Crazy reported about a recent trip to Los Coronado Islands where they caught five yellowtail and some calico bass. Their yellowtail were good sized fish that were ranging up to 30 pounds. Lane picked up one yellowtail while slow trolling around North Island during the early morning and the rest were caught while slow trolling below South Island at the South Kelp and the South Kelp Ridge. Lane reported that all their fish were caught while slow trolling either live mackerel or live sardines and said that his observation was that the sardines were working a bit better than the mackerel.
The yellowtail have been moving around from day to day and the best areas to try and locate them have been North Island, the Middle Grounds, the South Kelp, the South Kelp Ridge and the Rockpile. In addition to yellowtail, there have been some rockfish, barracuda and calico bass biting around Los Coronado Islands.
Southwestern Yacht Club held its 44th Annual Bottom Fishing Tournament. May 3. The tournament benefits the ElderHelp charity in San Diego and as always there was another great turnout. The rockfish fishing was very good for boats fishing the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank on the Mexican side of the border and was also very good while fishing at hard bottom areas to the north and north-northwest of North Island. The Southwestern Yacht Club Anglers won the high club award and their top boat catch was made aboard Dos Gringos. The overall high boat for the tournament was Lizardfish skippered by Todd Mora.
One of the highlights of the tournament was an incidental catch that had nothing to do with rockfish. It was a 100 plus pound opah that was caught on a rock cod gangion that was baited with squid. You truly never know what you might come up with each time you drop your line in the water.
Boats fishing along the San Diego County coast continue to pick up a mix of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and rockfish and are also catching an occasional halibut or yellowtail.
Boats fishing out of San Diego Bay have been doing well on the rockfish while fishing hard bottom spots outside of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma and have also been catching rockfish while fishing the Dropoff at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline and the Green Tank. There were calico bass biting at the kelp by the Green Tank and Point Loma College prior to a recent drop in the water temperature where the water cooled to 58 degrees. The water temperature has now warmed back up into the middle 60s and anglers should look for the calico bass bite to once again be picking up with the warmer water temperature.
In the La Jolla region, there have been good numbers of rockfish biting for boats fishing spots out westerly from Mission Bay. There are also occasional showings of yellowtail at La Jolla but for the most part the yellowtail have not been biting very well. That pattern might be changing as a recent half-day trip aboard New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing did get some yellowtail to bite on an afternoon half-day trip and had 40 anglers catch two yellowtail, eight reds and 48 rockfish. The best area for a chance at a yellowtail at La Jolla has been while fishing around the Bull Kelp area that is located a short way below the MLPA closure area at the lower end of La Jolla. A good depth range has been in 14 to 18 fathoms of water.
In the northern San Diego County region, there have been rockfish biting for boats fishing outside of Del Mar, Solana Beach South Cardiff, Leucadia and Box Canyon. Also try for a few bass and sculpin while fishing the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and the structure of the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing reported about a recent three-quarter day trip where they targeted rockfish. He said it was a day of sloppy weather conditions but that they still managed a good catch of quality sized rockfish. Their count for the day was 9 anglers catching 17 reds, eight salmon grouper, 16 copper rockfish, nine barber poles, eight whitefish, four sheephead, 28 sand dabs and 24 assorted rockfish. Strips of fresh frozen squid were working well for bait while fishing hard bottom areas between the lower boundary of the MLPA closure zone at Cardiff and Solana Beach. A productive depth range was fishing in 180 to 220 feet of water.
The surface fishing at both San Clemente Island and Catalina Island has been improving and has started to produce some good action. Catalina Island has been producing a mix of yellowtail and white seabass and San Clemente Island has started to provide some days of good yellowtail action.
The yellows at San Clemente Island have been biting while fishing along the ridge areas outside of Pyramid Cove in 18 to 22 fathoms of water. Best bet for the yellowtail has been using yo-yo iron or live squid. There has been a bit of squid to catch for bait at night at Pyramid Cove but it has more often than not been hard to catch there because of the seals. It has been best to bring squid over to San Clemente Island from Catalina or the mainland.
At Catalina, there have been white seabass and yellowtail biting along the back side eastern part of the Island. The best area within this zone has been while fishing between the Palisades and Silver Canyon in 75 to 90 feet of water. There has been squid to catch for bait in that same zone and anglers have been locating squid to catch for bait and then fishing in the same area as they find their squid. The best bite has been in the dark and in the early morning hours with the hours between 5:00 AM and 9:00 AM being the best. The white seabass have been good sized fish that have been running from 15 to 40+ pounds and the yellowtail have been nice sized fish that have been in the 20 to 30 pound class.
The 2014 fishing season is starting to really shape up with more and more areas starting to produce surface fishing action. The fishing should get nothing but better as the water warms and the season continues to unfold. 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.