Winter season continues to provide lots of fun fishing

SAN DIEGO—The winter fishing season has been providing Southern California anglers with quite a few days of nice and fishable weather. Those anglers who are watching the weather forecasts and choosing the nice weather days to go out on the water and do some fishing have often been rewarded with some fun action on what are good eating fish for the dinner table. In addition to the nice weather days, there have also been some days that bring strong winds and high seas. Anglers and skippers are advised to always check the latest marine weather forecast before going boating or fishing.

There has been an offshore area producing mixed catches of bluefin tuna, thresher sharks, swordfish and mako sharks for drift net swordfish boats. These fish have been found while working in an area around the upper part of the Ridge ranging between 32 and 50 miles from Point Loma. The fish have been caught while fishing in the region of the 138 Spot and the end of the Ridge above the 181 Spot. The fish have been located in 61.3- to 61.8-degree water temperature and there have also been some yellowtail reported to be holding around kelp paddies in this same zone.

All the reports from out at the upper part of the Ridge come from commercial drift net boats with no sportfishing boats that I know of having given it a try. I do not know if any more reports will be coming from the area as the commercial drift net boats had their drift netting season come to an end on Jan. 31.

The bluefin tuna being caught by the drift net boats were in the 60- to 90-pound class and some of the yellowtail being seen under the kelp paddies were up in the 20-pound class.

The drift net boats set their nets to fish during the dark. During daylight hours there were bluefin tuna meter marks being found and there were bluefin hooked on Flat Fall jigs. During daylight hours there were also some yellowtail found around kelp paddies found in this same area that were hooked on iron.

Sportboats fishing down the Mexican coast at the high spot area outside of Punta Colnett have been running 1.5-day trips and have been doing well on a mix of reds, rockfish, lingcod, bonito and yellowtail.

Most of the Punta Colnett trips are fishing on Saturdays and as an example of the most recent fishing, Vagabond out of Point Loma Sportfishing fished a 1.5-day trip and had 26 anglers catch 12 lingcod, 90 reds, 96 rockfish and 35 yellowtail. Fisherman’s Landing had both Tomahawk and Pacific Queen fishing 1.5 day trips and Pacific Queen had 33 anglers catch 150 rockfish, 120 reds, 23 yellowtail and 11 lingcod. Tomahawk had 13 anglers catch 65 rockfish 19 lingcod (to 35 pounds) and 6 bonito.

The yellowtail being caught on the Punta Colnett area trips have been going up into the 20-plus pound class. The best way to locate yellowtail off Punta Colnett is to look for meter marks, sonar marks and spots of working birds. Yo-yo iron is most often the best way to go once yellowtail are located and a sardine or mackerel fished on a dropper loop rig can also be effective. Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X or 7X jigs in blue and white, scrambled egg, Dorado and sardine colors.

Boats fishing for reds and rockfish around Los Coronado Islands continue to do very well and have also been catching an occasional bonus lingcod. Good areas for the bottom fishing include hard bottom areas to the north, northeast and northwest of North Island while working in 25 to 55 fathoms of water. Also productive has been fishing the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank while keeping on the Mexico side of the border and fishing in the 60 to 80 fathom depths. Another good rockfish zone around Los Coronado Islands has been fishing spots along the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in the 20 to 40 fathom depths.

            New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been running daily three-quarter-day trips to target the bottom fishing around the Coronado Islands. The most recent trip on New Seaforth saw 28 anglers catch 187 assorted rockfish and 41 whitefish.

An ongoing reminder to anglers is that the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure on the U.S. side of the Mexico border went into effect on Jan. 1, and the closure will remain in effect until March 1. With the ongoing rockfish/groundfish closure, Southern California anglers fishing in U.S. waters continue to focus their efforts on species still open to fishing and there has been good action for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, perch and sculpin along with an occasional bonus halibut and an occasional flurry of yellowtail action.

Productive areas for bass and sculpin have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom areas to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #5 at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp while fishing below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.

There have been a few halibut biting out in 30 fathoms of water outside of the Yukon shipwreck off Mission Beach and in the area of the sunken NEL Tower outside of Mission Beach. There have also been reports of halibut biting in San Diego Bay.

The showings of yellowtail along the San Diego County coast remain unpredictable and recent days have seen schools of yellowtail difficult to locate. The most recent showings of yellowtail have been found in an area ranging from outside of Mission Bay on up to Torrey Pines with the area outside of Mission Bay, the area below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla and the area outside of Torrey Pines being spots where the yellows have had a tendency to show. A good depth range to try and locate yellowtail has been in 18 to 30 fathoms of water.

The coastal yellowtail have been mostly 18- to 25-pound fish and they have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks and spots of working birds. Once located, yo-yo iron, surface iron, mackerel and sardines have all been working for the yellowtail with surface iron working the best.

Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X and 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white and scrambled egg colors. Good choices for surface iron include Salas 7X lights and Tady 45’s in blue and white, mint and sardine colors. The sardines and mackerel have worked while slow trolled, flylined and fished deep with a dropper loop rig. There are reports of mackerel being caught for bait in about 40-50 feet of water off the Mission Bay jetties.

If you watch the weather forecasts and pick the good weather days, year round ocean fishing is one of the nice benefits of living or vacationing in Southern California. I hope you get a chance to get out on one of the nice weather days and enjoy the fun fishing being found during this winter season. 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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