Yellowfin Tuna Enter San Diego Area Offshore Fishing Scene

By: Bob Vanian

The 2013 San Diego area offshore fishing season to date has been a good one, with a mix of bluefin tuna, dorado and yellowtail biting. However, the fall fishing season just might turns the excitement level up another notch or two.

Things have just become lot more interesting, thanks to the recent arrival of yellowfin tuna to waters within one-day range of Point Loma. The way things are shaping up, this could end up being a fall fishing season to remember.

There have been big numbers of yellowfin tuna biting for boats fishing on multi-day trips, in areas between 170 and 200 miles south of Point Loma. There is still excellent fishing in this more distant zone, but recent days have seen some decent numbers of yellowfin tuna showing up and biting, between 70 and 80 miles of Point Loma.

These yellowfin tuna have been ranging in size from 10 to 40 pounds, with the majority in the 25 to 40 pound range. There have been occasional big bluefin tuna that have gone up over the 100-pound mark caught, but most of the bluefin have been in the 15 to 40 pound range.

The majority of the yellowtail have been in the 5- to 10-pound class, with a fair number of larger fish to 30 pounds also being found in the mix. The dorado have been ranging from 5 to 30 pounds, with most falling within the 8- to 12-pound range.

Boats fishing offshore waters above San Diego have found kelp paddies around the 182 Spot, 181 Spot and 43 Fathom Spot to be producing a few yellowtail and an occasional dorado. The overall bite has been just fair in these areas, but every once in a while someone finds better numbers of fish.

The area of good fishing begins at some of the offshore banks outside of Los Coronados islands, such as the 425 Bank, 371 Bank and Upper Hidden Bank. Boats fishing these areas have been doing very well on yellowtail and are also picking up an occasional dorado or tuna.

Farther down the line, there has been good fishing for more of a mixed bag of yellowtail, dorado and bluefin tuna — for boats fishing some of the offshore banks below and outside of Ensenada, such as the 238 Spot and 295 Bank. The 1140 Finger area is where some of the better numbers of yellowfin tuna have started to show, for boats fishing 70 to 80 miles, 170 degrees from Point Loma.

Boats fishing on 1.5-day trips have been getting a mix of yellowtail, dorado, bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna while fishing the waters below and outside of Punta Colnett — 100 to 125 miles, 158 to 162 degrees from Point Loma. Once you get farther south, 170 to 200 miles from Point Loma, you are down where boats on multi-day trips have been catching big numbers of yellowfin tuna.

Private boater Capt. Ron Bowers of Salt Fever reported taking a recent three-day trip to fish the more distant offshore tuna grounds, and he found outstanding yellowfin tuna fishing while working between 179 and 183 miles, 155 to 156 degrees from Point Loma.

The eight anglers aboard limited out on yellowfin, and the trip was highlighted by a wide-open bait stop, where they woke up to fish under the boat while on the sea anchor. The fish under the boat were 25- to 40-pound yellowfin, and they had nonstop action until they caught their limits and ran out of bait.

As I was preparing this report, I was able to get an on-the-water report from Capt. Scott Meisel of Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing, who was out fishing the distant tuna grounds on an “extended 1.5-day trip.” At the time of his mid-afternoon report, Meisel was fishing 170-plus miles below Point Loma and had seen some great action during the early part of the day.

He had a mid-afternoon fish count of 145 yellowfin tuna, 53 dorado and 21 yellowtail, with lots of fishing time remaining in the day. The yellowfin and dorado were quality-size fish, with their yellowfin running to 40 pounds and the dorado going up to 25 pounds. Their red-hot bait stop had come from a kelp paddy.

Capt. Scott McDaniels of Sea Adventure 80 out of H&M Landing reported having a fantastic three-day trip, with a count of 325 yellowfin tuna, 10 bluefin tuna, 29 dorado and 12 skipjack. The majority of their yellowfin tuna were caught at the more distant tuna grounds, where boats have been finding good fishing between 160 and 190 miles below Point Loma.

They also found some good mixed-bag fishing for dorado, yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna while fishing their way home, in an area between 70 and 80 miles below Point Loma.

McDaniels reported that the yellowfin tuna they were catching at the more distant zone were averaging 33 pounds — and they had bait stops that lasted for hours. The yellowfin tuna they were catching in the more local area — between 70 to 80 miles below Point Loma — were also nice-size fish averaging around 25 pounds.

Capt. Ron Bowers of Salt Fever passed along a report from Capt. Todd Shifflett of the six-pack charter yacht Predator, who found very good fishing for a mixed bag of fish that included good numbers of yellowfin tuna within one-day range of Point Loma, outside of the 1140 Finger.

Shifflett reported a catch of 35 yellowfin tuna, 10 bluefin tuna, limits of yellowtail and 15 dorado — and had his best fishing 81 miles, 171 degrees from Point Loma.

Private boater Mike Kraus of Black Jack reported about a recent trip out of Marina Coral in Ensenada, Mexico. Kraus said they were able to catch mackerel for bait, and he reported fishing the region of the Banda Bank, 238 Spot and 450 Spot — catching two bluefin tuna, 15 yellowtail and two dorado.

He said that they found their best fishing while working areas that were in the deep water to the inside of the 238 Spot — 64 to 65 miles, 157 to 160 degrees from Point Loma. They caught their two bluefin from two early morning jig strikes that he found while fishing outside of the Banda Bank — 64 miles, 152 degrees from Point Loma. Their top fish was a 24-pound dorado.

Private boater Jim Covell of Sea Bear reported about a recent trip where they caught limits of yellowtail and limits of dorado, while working the area around and below the Inner Bank, where the 238 Spot is located. Kelp paddies provided the action, and their best fishing was found in an area spread between 60 and 82 miles, 163 degrees from Point Loma.

Private boater John Plaziak reported a recent trip with private boater Fred Larson, aboard Larson’s boat Squared Away. They were primarily fishing for marlin, but Plaziak said they found a good yellowtail bite on a kelp paddy between the 182 Spot and the 43 Fathom Spot.

They had a good time catching 16 yellowtail, and the kelp paddy was found at 31 miles, 258 degrees from Point Loma. These were nicer-sized yellowtail in the 10- to 15-pound class.

Private boater Rod Hadrian of Chicken Charlie fished a recent trip aboard the private boat Liquid Liability and reported finding excellent yellowtail fishing while working around the 295 Bank. The kelp paddies around the 295 Bank were reported to be loaded with yellowtail, and they easily caught their limits. They found this action while working between 175 and 180 degrees, 65 to 70 miles below Point Loma.

Marlin fishing has been providing some action for boats fishing two primary areas. The two best areas have been the zone between the 152 Spot and the 277 Spot off the East End of Catalina; and the area located 1.75 to 7 miles east to southeast of Pyramid Head, at San Clemente Island. My estimation is that eight or nine marlin were caught and released from these two areas over the past weekend.

Private boater Capt. Bob Woodard Jr. was fishing aboard Jim and Sarah Wachtler’s boat Wild Thing in Catalina Yacht Club’s Marlin Tournament and reported catching and releasing a marlin while fishing right at the high spot, at the 277 Spot off the East End of Catalina.

The marlin came up in the jigs, and they presented it a drop-back mackerel. When they got the live bait back in front of the fish and slowed down the boat, the fish went over to a black and green jig trolled from one of the outriggers and bit the jig instead of the mackerel.

Woodard said that there were 18 boats fishing in the tournament, and there were two marlin caught and released during the two-day event.

Skete Simmons of Concubine caught and released the only marlin in Mission Bay Marlin Club’s Charity Heart Tournament to benefit the American Heart Association. There were 26 boats and 88 anglers participating in the one-day tournament. The marlin was caught and released while fishing to the east of Pyramid Head, at San Clemente Island.

Los Coronados islands have been producing some yellowtail, but the action has been hit or miss — and generally on the scratchy side of things. There has been some improvement in recent days, with private boaters reporting catching a few yellowtail while slow-trolling sardines along the lee side of North Island and at the Middle Grounds.

A lot of the sportboats that would otherwise be fishing at Los Coronados islands are currently fishing offshore kelp paddies, and are catching lots of yellowtail and an occasional dorado or tuna.

The San Diego area coastal fishing is producing a few calico bass and some good numbers of rockfish. Also, look for some yellowtail activity while slow-trolling sardines at the upper end of La Jolla, and while fishing with live squid during the early morning hours in the area below and outside of the Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach.

A good depth range to locate squid and fish for the yellowtail in the area below and outside of the Crystal Pier has been in 80 to 105 feet of water.

The best of the 2013 offshore fishing season may well be ahead, with the recent influx of yellowfin tuna. Do not make the mistake of putting your tackle away too early.

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 976-Bite at Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service over the phone at (619) 226-8218. He always welcomes your fish reports at that same phone number, or via email at

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