SAN DIEGO—While California remains in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, some anglers have been able to get out on the ocean to be able to enjoy the improving weather and do some fishing. Sportboat operations are still closed down as of the time of this writing but some private boaters have been able to get out on the water and do some fishing.
All of the San Diego County harbors are still closed except that commercial boats can come and go through San Diego Bay. San Diego Bay just opened up to allow kayak, paddle boarding and swimming activities and I would think that is a good sign that recreational boating activities might open up some time in the not too distant future. In looking at the recreational boating picture in Orange County, the current status is that Dana Point Harbor and Newport Harbor remain open.
The past weekend saw quite a few boats out fishing mainland coastal waters, the inshore waters around Catalina and San Clemente Islands and offshore waters in pursuit of bluefin tuna. The weekend’s bluefin tuna fishing was scratchy but there were a few bluefin biting for boats fishing the region of the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy that is located at 43 miles 246 degrees from Point Loma. There was scattered bluefin activity found around and about the Weather Buoy proper as well as between the Weather Buoy and the Corner that is located at 30 miles 256 degrees from Point Loma.
Earlier in the week there were bluefin found between the region of the 289 Spot and the lee of San Clemente Island, but that zone quieted down during the weekend. The fishing on April 25 also saw some spots of bluefin seen in the Catalina Channel, in the area to the southwest of the 14 Mile Bank. A skipper fishing that zone the next day, however, did not find any spots of breaking bluefin.
The bluefin have been in the 30- to 100-plus pound range and most have been caught by casting jigs to spots of breaking fish. Productive jigs have included the mint color and the blue and white color Salas 7X light surface iron, Flat Fall Jigs, Colt Snipers, poppers and Yo-Zuri Hydro-Minnows. Slow trolled and flylined mackerel and sardines have also produced occasional bluefin action.
Boats fishing San Clemente Island were finding good fishing for rockfish and calico bass along with an occasional bonus yellowtail or white sea bass. The best areas for a chance at a yellowtail were fishing spots along the front side of the Island between Gold Bluff and Purse Seine Rock. Pyramid Cove and Desperation Reef also provided a chance at scratching out a yellowtail and there was a recent report about a few 20- pound white sea bass being scratched out at Pyramid Cove. Good calico bass fishing has been found around Purse Seine Rock, White Rock and off Gold Bluff.
Private boater Tony Dileva of Esperanza fished at San Clemente Island on April 25 and reported finding excellent fishing for an assortment of rockfish at Desperation Reef. Dileva also reported finding a school of yellowtail under working birds in Pyramid Cove. He added the yellowtail were up and down quickly and did not want to bite. While fishing their way back home on April 26, Dileva found some jumbo sized 10- to 15-pound bonito biting while trolling to the west and northwest of North Island.
At Catalina Island there were some good numbers of calico bass biting at various kelp bed areas along the back side of the Island and there were also some calicos biting around Church Rock. There were also reports of good fishing for bonito and barracuda reported off the Rock Quarry.
The main target species at Catalina were white sea bass and yellowtail and there was a chance at scratching out a white sea bass or yellowtail while fishing off Church Rock, fishing the squid grounds off the V’s and fishing the Orange Rocks area. Among those areas, the best bet for white sea bass continues to be in the Orange Rocks area where the past couple of weeks have seen occasional flurries of action on 30- to 50-pound white sea bass, while fishing around areas of bottom structure in 40 to 50 feet of water.
There have also been some coastal white sea bass biting with occasional reports of white sea bass to 40 pounds being caught by boats fishing off Salt Creek, Box Canyon, the upper end of La Jolla and Mission Beach.
There are fish around and biting but I do not want these reports to encourage anyone to violate the current lockdown regulations. I encourage you to play things safe and adhere to the current regulations and social distancing guidelines. My feeling is that on many private boats it would be very difficult to adhere to the “social distancing” guidelines of keeping 6 feet away from other people. I encourage you to stay home as much as your situation allows and to err on the side of caution in your decision making. I practice what I preach as I have left home only once in the past six weeks. Be safe, stay healthy and I hope to see you back out on the water when the COVID-19 crisis subsides. I pray every day that this time comes very 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 email@example.com.