Tuna Update: Yellowfin Surges, Jumbo-Sized Bluefin Biting

SAN DIEGO—The 2019 Southern California offshore fishing season has seen a break out rally on the yellowfin bite. The past week of fishing seeing some near limit to limit catches of yellowfin tuna being posted. In addition to the yellowfin bite, offshore anglers have also been catching bluefin to 300-plus pounds along with some pretty good numbers of kelp paddie yellowtail, a few striped marlins and some Dorado.

The yellowfin have been running from 8 to 40 pounds, with most falling within the 12- to 18-pound range. The good yellowfin bite zone has been around some of the offshore banks within 40 miles or so from Point Loma while fishing areas such as the 224 Spot, the 230 Spot, the 371 Bank, the San Salvador Knoll and the 390 Bank. Those same areas where the yellowfin are being caught have also been producing a mix of the 20- to 40-pound bluefin tuna, some kelp paddie yellowtail and a few Dorado.

Most of the yellowfin and the 20- to 40-pound bluefin in the mix with the yellowfin have been caught on sardines after stopping the boat alongside of some breaking fish, puddling fish, breezing fish, a meter mark, a kelp paddie or a sonar mark. Most of the stops are “plunker” bite stops where you drift and chum and keep a hookup or two going during a long drift. It usually helps anglers draw strikes on the sardines in these situations by using 15- to 20-pound test fluorocarbon leaders and small hooks.

In other areas, there are also occasional yellowfin tuna caught from around the 9 Mile Bank and boats fishing around some of the banks up toward Catalina report seeing signs of yellowfin and getting some tuna meter marks while fishing areas such as the 181 Spot, the 209 Spot and the 277 Spot but not much is being caught. Kelp paddies in these same areas are also sometimes holding a few yellowtail or Dorado. Reports from the Mackerel Bank and the 289 Spot are of occasional showings of breaking bluefin and yellowfin but most boats have been focusing on fishing other areas.

Another highlight is there are also pretty good numbers of jumbo-sized bluefin biting off the backside of San Clemente Island. These bluefin have gone to 300-plus pounds and anglers fishing this zone continue to have the chance of catching the fish of a lifetime. The jumbo bluefin have been biting best off the backside of the island in an area ranging from above and outside of Seal Cove on down to where you are fishing below and outside of Seal Cove. A good depth range to locate bluefin within this region has been while fishing between the 200-fathom curve and the 500-fathom curve.

Finding spots of puddling fish, spots of breezing fish, sonar marks and meter marks are helping anglers find most of the jumbo-sized bluefin. Once located, the bluefin have been biting best on kite trolled Yummy Flyers and on flying fish that are fished from a kite while drifting or while slow trolling. Slow trolled mackerel, Flat Fall jigs and mackerel fished from a floating balloon have also been drawing some strikes.

Marlin fishing has been just fair lately with the area off the Slide and the Can Dump off the eastern part of Catalina being the best areas while fishing from 1 to 6 miles off the island. There are occasional tailers, sleepers and jumpers being seen but most of the action originates from blind trolling strikes. My estimation is there were three marlin caught and released by boats fishing this zone during the weekend of Aug. 17/18.

Los Coronado Islands have not seen much fishing pressure lately due to the good tuna fishing to be found in nearby offshore waters. The sportboat Malihini out of H&M Landing did sample the fishing at Los Coronado Islands on Aug. 17 and had 36 anglers catch three yellowtails, 24 barracuda, four sand bass, 50 whitefish and 175 rockfish on a full-day trip.

The best areas for the surface fishing have been while fishing along the weather side of North Island, at the north end of South Island and at the Ribbon Kelp located in the lee of South Island. Good areas for the bottom fishing have been at the South Kelp Ridge while fishing in 25 to 40 fathoms of water and at the hard bottom areas to the north and northwest of North Island while fishing in 35 to 50 fathoms of water.

Most of the yellowtails around Los Coronado Islands have been in the 10- to 18-pound class with a few bigger fish also sometimes found in the mix. To locate yellowtail look for sonar marks, meter marks, trolling strikes on X-Rap Rapalas, trolling strikes on slow trolled sardines and spots of breezing fish. Once located, sardines, surface iron and yo-yo iron have been effective for yellowtail. Sardines and surface iron work well for barracuda.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast continues to be good for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, reds, rockfish and sculpin and there has also been a chance at catching a bonus yellowtail, lingcod or halibut.

Calico bass continue to provide most of the surface fishing action with kelp bed areas up and down much of the San Diego County coast producing action. The more productive kelp bed areas for calicos have been the kelp at the upper end of La Jolla, the kelp bed areas between Solana Beach and South Carlsbad, the Barn Kelp, Yellowtail Kelp and the kelp off Box Canyon. The best zone for a chance at scratching out a yellowtail has been at the upper end of La Jolla.

Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reported about some incredible calico bass fishing on a trip to the Barn Kelp and the Yellowtail Kelp areas above Oceanside. It was a Boys Club and Girls Club trip that was sponsored by the Oceanside Senior Anglers. Cacciola said it was a 100 percent catch-and-release trip and, in his 37-plus years of running trips out of Oceanside, it was the most calico bass one of his groups has ever caught in a single day of fishing. Cacciola reported the catch including catching and releasing 750-plus calico bass that day. The kids were tallying individual catch and release calico bass totals of numbers such as 83, 52, 49, and 36 calicos per person. It was an incredible day of calico bass fishing!

Cacciola also reported recently catching the biggest halibut they have ever caught aboard Sea Star. He said the jumbo-sized halibut was caught in 70 feet of water off Carlsbad State Park and weighed 52 pounds! The fish was 50 inches long and was caught on a live sardine that was fished on the bottom.

Hard bottom and structure spots have been producing some bass and sculpin with productive places being the Imperial Beach Pipeline, hard bottom spots between the Imperial Beach Pipeline and the Mexico border, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.

Rockfish are a significant part of the coastal fishing picture with recent reports of good rockfish catches coming from hard bottom areas around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, the upper end of La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Del Mar and Box Canyon.

The summer fishing season is providing anglers with opportunities for very good fishing that include a chance at catching a 300 pound class bluefin tuna out at San Clemente Island. Be it tuna offshore or calico bass and rockfish along the coast, an angler has a lot of fun options to consider in contemplating a day of fishing. 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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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