Tuna fishing is up and down with yellowtail, Dorado, marlin, barracuda and bass bites improving

SAN DIEGO—The fishing for bluefin and yellowfin has been stealing the spotlight for much of the 2020 summer fishing season. The middle of August, however, has seen the fishing for both species taper off a bit and become just fair. There are still bluefin and yellowfin being caught but at the time of this writing, the fishing for both species is down when compared to the levels of what has been biting in recent weeks. Every fishing season has ups and downs and we are going through somewhat of a down period for the bluefin and yellowfin at the moment. That said, the way things can change from day to day, the tuna bites could easily bounce right back and become very good again before this report gets to the news stands.

At the moment, the places that are producing some bluefin action in offshore waters are the area outside of the western part of the back side of Catalina and along the ridge areas to the northwest of the West End of San Clemente Island. To show how things are always changing, in a new development, the past few days have also seen some bluefin biting at the South Kelp Ridge and the Rockpile areas of Los Coronado Islands. The bluefin biting in recent days have been the 15- to 40-pound fish and sardines have been working well for bait when fishing meter marks, sonar marks or spots of breaking fish. Colt Sniper jigs have also been effective when cast while first approaching a spot of breaking fish.

There has been some hit or miss and mostly scratchy fishing for yellowfin tuna for boats fishing offshore banks outside of Los Coronado Islands.  The best area has been to the west of the 230 Spot and to the northwest of the San Salvador Knoll for boats fishing from 32 to 40 miles 230 to 236 degrees from Point Loma. Every once in a while someone gets a long plunker type of stop where they drift and pick away at the yellowfin but there have also been boats that do not fare as well. There are yellowfin around, hopefully they will change their habits and start biting better.

Some of the boats that might otherwise be tuna fishing in offshore waters have been fishing at San Clemente Island where there has been good action for yellowtail, calico bass, bonito and rockfish. The yellowtail have been in the 15- to 20-pound range and productive yellowtail areas have been the West End, Pyramid Head and Purse Seine Rock with the West End being the best.

There is good news to report on the offshore kelp paddie dorado and yellowtail fishing front as boats fishing multi-day trips to the offshore waters outside of Punta Colnett are finding very good dorado and yellowtail action. Most of the sportboats that have been fishing down this way have been returning with limits of dorado and near limit to limit catches of yellowtail. This area of good biting fish has been down between 105 and 120 miles 168 degrees from Point Loma.

Dorado are also moving into more local offshore waters in the area below and outside of Los Coronado Islands but the dorado and yellowtail being found in this sector have not been biting very well. Skippers report seeing dorado and yellowtail under kelp paddies around the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 425 Bank, the 371 Bank and the Upper Hidden Bank but for the most part they have not been biting and most of what has been caught has been caught by divers using their spear guns.


Capt. Todd Shifflett of the six-pack charter yacht Predator reported about fishing a recent trip to the area between the 425 Bank and the Upper Hidden Bank. Shifflett said kelp paddies in this area were holding quite a few dorado that would not bite. They went diving around the paddies and were successful in spearing a good number of dorado that included a large bull Dorado weighing in at 40 pounds.

Shifflett reported there was 72- to 75-degree water in this sector and said while diving at a kelp paddie inside of the 425 Bank, he personally saw a wahoo keeping its distance as it cruised around the kelp paddie. The kelp paddie with the wahoo was also holding Dorado and was found at 24 miles 177 degrees from Point Loma.

The fishing at Los Coronado Islands has improved and for the moment, Los Coronado Islands might well be the best place to try and catch a bluefin tuna. San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing fished a couple of recent full day trips to Los Coronado Islands. On the first trip they had 23 anglers catch 13 bluefin tuna and 26 yellowtail and on the next trip they had 19 anglers catch 6 bluefin tuna and 30 yellowtail.

The South Kelp Ridge and Rockpile are areas that have produced bluefin tuna and yellowtail action around Los Coronado Islands and much of the action has been coming while sitting on the anchor. Sardines have been working well for bluefin and yellowtail and some yellowtail have also been biting on surface iron. The fishing at Los Coronado Islands has also been good for barracuda and calico bass. Barracuda have been biting well at the Middle Grounds and calico bass have been biting well at kelp bed areas around South Island. A report just received from today’s fishing is that a private boater caught several yellowtail while slow trolling with sardines at the Pukey Point area of North Island.

Private boater Ken Hood reported about fishing a recent trip to Los Coronado Islands. Hood reported good calico bass fishing but said the highlight fishing of their day was finding a wide-open barracuda bite at the Middle Grounds. Hood’s report was the barracuda bite went on all day and that the barracuda were biting all the baits and jigs they were tossing at them. The water temperature at Los Coronado Islands has warmed considerably during the past week and Hood said that the water was running 71 degrees.

Striped marlin fishing has improved at areas around the eastern part of Catalina Island and I would estimate that 10 or 12 marlins were caught and released from this sector in mid-August. Action was had from blind trolling strikes, drop back mackerel baits and from presenting mackerel to tailers.  Productive areas were the 125 Spot, the 152 Spot, the Avalon Bank, the 14 Mile Bank and the area 1 to 4 miles off the Slide, the Can Dump, Avalon and White’s Landing. Among all those locations the area 1 to 4 miles off the Island between the Slide and White’s Landing was the best. The morning hours tend to be the best time of day for the marlin and pink and white color jigs have been reported to be working well on the troll.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast improved in mid-August, with a warming of the water. Places where the water temperature had suddenly dropped into the low 60s warmed back up to where there are now kelp bed areas where there is water as warm as 74 degrees. Calico bass fishing has improved at kelp bed areas at Point Loma, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Leucadia, Carlsbad and The Barn. There are also some schools of small bonito and a few barracuda that have been biting off Imperial Beach, Point Loma and La Jolla.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reported the water has warmed to as high as 71 degrees at kelp bed areas between Carlsbad and Solana Beach and reports that the calico bass bite has picked up with the warming of the water. Cacciola said they have to go into 45 feet of water or less to find kelp beds to fish. He reported they have been having success with the calicos while using sardine chunks, green Wham plastics, anchovy color Hookup Bait plastics and the 5- to 5.5-inch sardines that have been in their recent live bait supply.

The summer fishing season has been a good one and it continues to provide a lot of options for anglers wishing to target some of the exciting species that visit our coast during this time of year. The summer season also allows anglers to target some of the resident species that become more active when the water warms up. Keep on fishing and I hope to see you out on the water sometime soon!


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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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