Will 2018 offshore fishing season roll into 2019?

SAN DIEGO — It is Christmas Eve as this report is being written and the past week has seen an amazing run of bluefin tuna, kelp paddie yellowtail and striped marlin activity in Southern California’s offshore waters. There is currently an area of relatively warm 64.5-degree water ranging from the waters outside of Dana Point on down to the 9 Mile Bank, allowing bites of tune, yellowtail and striped marlin to remain a possibility leading up to Christmas week.

Whether this warm water pocket will survive until the start of 2019 is in question though as a weather system with rain, gale strength winds and large seas is forecasted to be moving through Southern California on or around Christmas Day. A second weather system is forecasted to be arriving a couple of days after Christmas and the question is whether this series of weather systems will deliver enough disturbance to cause the water to roll and turn cold. If that happens, the tuna, marlin and kelp paddie yellowtail might well leave us for a while to frolic in warmer waters.

The showings of bluefin have been sporadic. Yet some spots of breaking bluefin have been seen and a few have been caught. Specific areas where bluefin activity has been reported have been the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank, the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank, the area 6 to 10 miles outside of Solana Beach and in the Carlsbad Canyon. There have also been some yellowtail biting under kelp paddies found within the warm water area ranging from the 9 Mile Bank on up to the offshore waters outside of Dana Point. One of the better zones for yellowtail over the past weekend was for boats fishing 6 to 10 miles outside of Oceanside. The yellowtail has been mixed size fish from 4 to 12 pounds and the bluefin tuna have ranged from 20 to 60 pounds.

The late part of the fishing season saw striped marlin holding in tight to the east end of Catalina into the first week of December and there might well still be some marlin holding in that zone. Very few boats have been out looking for marlin lately so it is hard to know what might still be around. An area where there were a couple of marlin seen more recently was in the warm water area outside of Dana Point. If the pocket of 64.5-degree water between the 9 Mile Bank and the offshore waters outside of Dana Point can survive the approaching weather systems, it would seem to me that someone who might be interested in trying to catch the first marlin or the first tuna of 2019 might have a decent chance on New Year’s Day (weather permitting).

The upbeat news about surface fishing is ongoing as the first sportboat trip I know of to fish Los Coronado Islands in a week was out on Dec. 22 and found good surface fishing with lots of bonito and pretty good numbers of yellowtail. The bottom fishing was also reported to be solid with good numbers of reds and assorted rockfish biting. Malihini out of H&M Landing – the boat fishing at Los Coronado Islands – had a fish count of 28 anglers on a full-day trip with eight yellowtails, 50 bonito, 120 rockfish, 45 reds, 11 sheephead and two lingcod.

The best chances at finding surface fishing action around Los Coronado Islands have been while fishing off the weather side of North Island, at the South Kelp Ridge and at the Middle Grounds. Good areas for the rockfish fishing have been at the South Kelp Ridge while fishing in the 25 to 40 fathom depths and at hard bottom areas to the north and northwest of North Island while fishing in 35 to 45 fathoms of water.

The fishing along the San Diego area coast has seen a lot of boats transitioning into a rockfish fishing mode that are finding good numbers of reds and assorted rockfish biting but there are also some bass biting along with a chance at finding some bonito action or scratching out a halibut or yellowtail. Yellowtail and white sea bass fishing has been slow but there has been a bit of recent improvement in the yellowtail activity.

Hard bottom and structure areas have been best for the bass and rockfish and the best areas for a chance at finding bonito action have been while fishing around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, outside of the Green Tank at Point Loma, outside of Point Loma College or outside of the upper end of La Jolla. Boats fishing for reds and rockfish off Box Canyon are also finding occasional bonito action incidental to fishing for the reds and rockfish.

Some of the more productive rockfish fishing areas have been the International Reef, the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank, The 270, Del Mar, Leucadia and Box Canyon.

There have been a few halibut biting in coastal areas. Some productive halibut areas include the sandy bottom near the Aliso Pipeline off South Laguna Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower located outside of Mission Beach, the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck located outside of Mission Beach and San Diego Bay.

The 2019 fishing season is right around the corner but the late part of the 2018 fishing season is still producing a chance at finding some action on warmer water species such as bluefin tuna, yellowtail, striped marlin, bass and bonito! 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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