By: Bob Vanian
While San Diego area anglers have been traveling offshore to catch bluefin tuna and yellowtail, they have been pondering one question: “Where are the albacore?”
I have no answers about why we are not seeing the elusive albacore, with what are textbook-perfect offshore water conditions, but what has happened over the past several days will likely take anglers’ minds off the albacore: Good numbers of 40-pound-class yellowfin tuna are starting to show up, in some of the same areas where bluefin and yellowtail have been biting.
Anglers still have to travel a bit to get into the best offshore fishing, as bluefin and yellowfin have been biting best in waters between 110 and 210 miles below Point Loma. There are also some bluefin and yellowtail biting for boats fishing around the Inner Bank area outside Ensenada, but generally not in the numbers that are being caught farther south.
Private boater Capt. Ron Bowers of Salt Fever reported that on a recent three-day tuna fishing trip, he caught 20 yellowtail, one bluefin tuna and one yellowfin tuna on the first day. He found his yellowtail action from a kelp paddy located 150 miles, 153 degrees from Point Loma — and, later in the day, he found tuna action 123 miles, 161 degrees from Point Loma.
On Day 2 of the trip, Bowers reported catching eight bluefin tuna and four yellowfin tuna while working near porpoises in an area spread between 119 and 131 miles, 160 degrees from Point Loma.
Bowers said he was very impressed by the quality and size of the tuna they were catching. They had one “smaller” 30-pound bluefin tuna on the first day of the trip, and the rest of the tuna were up around the 40-pound mark, with a few bigger fish in the mix: 42 and 43 pounds.
Bowers said that most of their tuna were caught on the troll while using size CD-18 black and purple Rapalas, natural-color cedar plugs and black and purple cedar plugs. The water was 64.5 degrees, and was blue.
Private boater John Carroll of Huachinango reported taking his 12-year-old son, JJ, out on a recent 1.5-day trip aboard Islander, out of Fisherman’s Landing. Carroll reported a great trip with Capt. John Conniff at the helm, and said that they had limits of yellowtail to 20 pounds early in the day, while fishing kelp paddies outside of Punta Colnett.
They next went inside, to try the inshore fishing at Punta Colnett, and found outstanding bottomfishing for a mix of red rock cod and lingcod. After getting their fill of bottomfish, they headed offshore in search of bluefin and yellowfin tuna, to finish off the trip.
Carroll reported that JJ caught his limit of yellowtail, reds and lings. One of the trip’s highlights was when JJ caught two lingcod at once on the same gangion.
Boats fishing Isla San Martin have found some excellent yellowtail fishing at the Breakers and the 6-Fathom Spot.
Capt. Bob Taft of Top Gun 80, out of H&M Landing, reported fishing at Isla San Martin on the first day of a recent three-day trip. They did not get to San Martin until 2 p.m., but had excellent fishing until dark on 18- to 30-pound yellowtail.
Taft reported that his 19 anglers caught 81 yellowtail and said there was wide-open action on tackle-buster-size fish, with lots of lost hookups in addition to the 81 yellowtail that were boated.
Taft left Isla San Martin at dark on the first day of the trip and went back offshore for Day 2, targeting an area of bluefin tuna spotted 210 miles below Point Loma. They succeeded in locating the bluefin — and they added 42 bluefin and 18 yellowtail to their total on Day 2.
The 19 anglers aboard ended up with a three-day total of 100-plus yellowtail, 40-plus bluefin and one yellowfin.
Local showings of bluefin tuna have occurred in offshore waters between 30 and 40 miles from Point Loma. There were a few days when bluefin were showing for boats fishing between 425 Bank and Hidden Bank, but the fish in those areas have not offered consistent action.
A recent three-quarter day trip aboard the six-pack charter yacht El Gato Dos, out of Seaforth Sportfishing, returned with five bluefin tuna caught outside 425 Bank, but boats going to that zone in subsequent days did not find bluefin action.
There have also been a few kelp paddy yellowtail reported from some of the local offshore banks — such as 9 Mile Bank, the 43 Fathom Spot and the stretch of coast between La Jolla and Leucadia — but, to date, just a few yellowtail have been holding under some local offshore kelp paddies, with few being caught.
More offshore pelagic fish are filtering into local offshore waters. The Marlin Club reported that the first marlin of the season was caught and weighed in July 15. The marlin weighed 168 pounds and was caught aboard the sportboat Success out of Point Loma Sportfishing, by an angler trolling a tuna feather west of the Rockpile, at Los Coronados islands.
Additional marlin activity was reported that same day: A marlin was seen out at the 302 Spot and another marlin was spotted by a boat fishing for yellowtail at Pukey Point, at North Island.
The fishing at Los Coronados islands has been very good for a mix of calico bass, barracuda, yellowtail, rockfish and sculpin. The best spots for the surface fishing have been the Middle Grounds, the Ribbon Kelp and the Pukey Point area. The yellowtail have been good-sized fish in the 18- to 30-pound range, with an occasional bigger fish in the mix.
The private boater father-and-son team of Sean and Mike Rooney of Reel Busy reported fishing a recent trip to Los Coronados islands and catching their limits of 25- to 30-pound yellowtail. Sean Rooney reported that they caught their yellows on sardines while fishing at anchor in 72 feet of water at the Middle Grounds.
Rooney said they had 17 hookups for the 10 fish they boated. Most of their lost hookups were a result of the big yellows being able to get to the rocks in relatively shallow water.
They were using fluorocarbon leaders with live sardines, and they had the most success with 20- and 25-pound-test line. It was reported to be steady fishing through much of the day, and the bite kept getting better as the day progressed.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been productive for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, barracuda, yellowtail and rockfish — and there has also been an occasional white seabass or halibut in the mix. The best chance at finding a flurry of barracuda action, or catching yellowtail or white seabass, has been at the upper end of La Jolla.
Some productive kelp bed areas in the Point Loma region include the Lab, Green Tank and Point Loma College. These areas have been productive for calico bass and rockfish — and there have also been some rockfish biting at hard bottom areas around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma.
Capt. Mike Hadfield of the six-pack charter yacht Josie Lynn with Point Loma Sportfishing reported fishing hard-bottom spots around the Whistler Buoy on a recent half-day trip off Point Loma. Two anglers aboard each caught their 10-fish limits of red rock cod.
La Jolla has been productive for calico bass, barracuda and rockfish, and it has also been producing some yellowtail and an occasional white seabass. The upper end of La Jolla has been the best for the surface fishing.
Try for calicos while fishing along the edges of the main kelp bed area, along the upper and the upper-middle part of La Jolla. Try for barracuda, yellowtail and white seabass while fishing in varied depths off the upper end of La Jolla, in an area ranging from the edges of the main kelp bed on out to the kelp stringers at Northwest, in 16 fathoms of water.
Capt. Kelvin Nettleton of La Jolla Fishing reported that on a recent trip to the upper end of La Jolla, his clients caught five barracuda and a 25-pound yellowtail. He had his best action while slow trolling nose-hooked sardines at around 2 knots.
Some squid have been available to be caught for bait at night, at the upper end of La Jolla. There have also been reports of squid occasionally being jigged during daylight hours.
Try for white seabass at night and during the early morning in the same area as you might locate the squid. The best zone for squid and a chance at white seabass has been just outside the Marine Protected Area closure zone at the upper end of La Jolla.
The kelp beds in North San Diego County have been producing a mix of calico bass, sand bass and rockfish, and they have also been producing an occasional flurry of barracuda action.
Capt. Joe Cacciola of Sea Star, out of Helgren’s Sportfishing, has been fishing kelp bed areas at Del Mar, Solana Beach and Leucadia. He reported it has been important to locate a kelp bed area where you find a downhill or down-and-in current flow. Cacciola reported on a recent three-quarter-day trip, 14 anglers caught 12 sand bass and 62 calico bass.
Cacciola prefers anchovies or small sardines for bait, but said their recent bait supply has been made up mostly of large sardines. When the sardines are large, he suggested chunking them or stripping them, and using either the cut sardines or strips of fresh-frozen or fresh-dead market squid.
Cacciola chums chunks of sardines as his anglers flyline their cut baits into the kelp for calico bass.
One tip he provided is to avoid chumming the heads of the cut sardines. The heads will float, and that can cause a frenzy among hungry pelicans and seagulls.
Bob Vanian is the voice, writer and researcher of the San Diego-based Internet fish report service 976-Bite at 976bite.com. Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service at (619) 226-8218. Vanian’s reports can be heard at 8:20 a.m. each Sunday on the “Let’s Talk Hookup” radio show, at 1090 AM. He always welcomes your fish reports at (619) 226-8218.