SAN DIEGO — The 2018 Southern California fishing season has been and continues to be a good one but there are some changes underway as we shift from summer to fall. The most significant change: the bite on big bluefin tuna out at San Clemente Island has cooled off. The bite on bluefin to 300+ pounds had been going strong for many weeks but has started tapering off in mid-September.
Maybe this is just a temporary lull in the bite on the jumbo sized bluefin, just like this same time last year, when we saw a similar decline in the bite before the species returned to the back side of San Clemente Island. Those still wanting to go after bluefin can currently try the Tanner Bank where there has been some pretty good to sometimes good action for a mix of yellowtail and 15- to 30-pound bluefin tuna.
The current offshore fishing picture is still very good with lots of yellowfin tuna and skipjack biting for boats fishing the region between the Upper Hidden Bank and 425 Spot between 25 and 40 miles 185 to 190 degrees from Point Loma. The yellowfin are mostly 6- to 15-pound fish, with a few bigger ones reaching 35 pounds. Most of the larger yellowfin are caught around porpoise schools. In addition to being found with porpoise schools, the yellowfin are being located by finding kelp paddies, trolling strikes, spots of breaking fish, skipjack trolling strikes, meter marks and sonar marks. In addition to the yellowfin tuna and skipjack, there are a few Dorado and yellowtail biting in this sector as well.
Some of the better trips have seen near-limit to limit fishing for yellowfin tuna and skipjack. Counts from some of the overnight and full-day trips on Sept. 16 demonstrate the recent hot fishing. The overnight trip Producer, out of H&M Landing, had 30 anglers catch 130 yellowfin tuna, two Dorado, one bonito and 150 skipjack. Old Glory fished an overnight trip with 36 anglers who caught 73 yellowfin tuna, 35 skipjack and 11 Dorado. Ocean Odyssey fished an overnight trip with 32 anglers who caught 70 yellowfin tuna and one Dorado. Malihini fished a full-day trip with 41 anglers who caught 73 skipjack, 17 yellowfin tuna, eight bonito, two calico bass and one rockfish. Jig Strike fished an overnight trip with 13 anglers who caught 65 skipjack and 65 yellowfin tuna. Fisherman III fished a full day trip with 17 anglers who caught 85 skipjack, seven yellowfin tuna and one yellowtail. Faith fished a full-day trip with four anglers who caught 20 yellowfin tuna, 19 skipjack and one Dorado. Daiwa Pacific fished an overnight trip with 11 anglers who caught 55 yellowfin tuna.
Seaforth Sportfishing had New Seaforth fish a full-day trip with 56 anglers who caught 64 yellowfin tuna and 75 skipjack. San Diego fished a full-day trip with 54 anglers and caught 72 skipjack and 180 yellowfin tuna.
Point Loma Sportfishing had an overnight trip aboard Dominator with 28 anglers catching 140 skipjack, 110 yellowfin tuna, two Dorado and one yellowtail. Mission Belle fished a full-day trip with 18 anglers who caught 87 yellowfin tuna, 15 skipjack and two Dorado.
Fisherman’s Landing had Liberty fishing a full-day trip with 60 anglers who caught six Dorado, 130 skipjack and 175 yellowfin tuna.
There continues to be a chance at finding a good Dorado bite around the offshore kelp paddies between Catalina and the Upper Hidden Bank region below San Diego. There are a lot of empty kelp paddies around but there are also some paddies still holding some fish. Some of the more productive areas are 8 to 15 miles off the coast between San Onofre and La Jolla, the 267 Spot, 277 Spot and 209 Spot. Most of the Dorado have ranged in size from 6 to 25 pounds and they have been biting best on mackerel and sardines.
Balboa Angling Club held its Master Angler’s Tournament on Sept. 14 and 15, with 39 boats from five clubs participating. Those boats caught and released 10 marlins on Day 1 and 17 marlins on Day 2. A productive zone was off the East End of Catalina for boats fishing off Church Rock, the 125 Spot and the Slide but the best zone proved to be in the region of the 267 Spot where there was good fishing between the 267 Spot and the 14 Mile Bank as well as into the north of the 267 Spot. There were jig fish and baitfish caught and released during the tournament with a few sleepers, feeders and tailers showing.
The Mission Bay Marlin Club held its annual Heart Tournament to benefit the American Heart Association on Sept. 15. There were three marlins caught in this tournament, with two of the fish being released.
There have not been many boats fishing around Los Coronado Islands lately due to how good the yellowfin tuna and skipjack fishing has been in nearby offshore waters. At last report, the fishing at Los Coronado Islands was pretty good for a mixed bag of yellowtail, bonito and calico bass along with a chance at catching a bluefin tuna. A recent report from a private boater was that he had caught limits of yellowtail while fishing along the weather side of North Island while using slow trolled mint green color 5/8-ounce Hookup Bait plastics. A more recent private boater report from a skipper who had fished North Island was they found the yellowtail fishing to be slow. Other productive surface fishing areas around Los Coronado Islands have been the Middle Grounds, the Ribbon Kelp, the 5 Minute Kelp and the South Kelp Ridge.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been productive for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, bonito, rockfish and sculpin along with a chance at a yellowtail.
The best area for a chance at a coastal yellowtail has been at the upper end of La Jolla. There are yellowtails in other areas. Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reports there have been occasional showings of yellowtail along the kelp bed areas ranging from Del Mar on up to San Onofre. I also received a recent report of some yellowtail biting even further north off Point San Mateo.
Cacciola says you never know when you might encounter some yellowtail activity in the North San Diego County coastal region, though there have been the occasional flurry. His report is most of the yellowtail they hooked has been large 20-pound class fish (hooked on light tackle and intended for calico bass) and most of the hooked fish are lost to the kelp and rocks.
The bite for 4- to 10-pound bonito, particularly for boats fishing the International Reef area a short way above the Mexico border, has also been good. There has also been some bonito action in the 30 to 50 fathom depths outside of the Point Loma Kelp Beds and outside of La Jolla. The bonito are being located by finding trolling strikes, spots of breaking fish, sonar marks and meter marks. The bonito, once located, have been biting on sardines. Some of the recent bonito counts from half-day and three-quarter-day local trips fishing the International Reef area have been in the 60- to 80-fish-per-boat range.
The fall fishing season can provide some of the best fishing of the year. Do not make the mistake of putting your gear away too early. I hope you have a chance to get out on the water and enjoy the fun fishing that the remainder of the 2018 fishing season will have to offer! 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.