Yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, white seabass, calico bass and halibut biting

By: Bob Vanian

SAN DIEGO — The fishing season is off to a flying start and scientists are saying that there is an increasing likelihood that we will have formal El Nino conditions before the end of summer. This is already a fishing season to remember and we are barely started.            

On the offshore fishing front, boats fishing areas between 100 and 180 miles below Point Loma have been returning with mixed bag catches that have mostly been made up of yellowfin tuna and yellowtail. Every once in awhile, bluefin tuna pop up and provide some action and the first dorado of the season was reported on May 31. It is incredibly early in the year for yellowfin tuna and dorado to be this close to Point Loma as these species do not usually become part of the picture until the late summer and fall months.            

Capt. Scott Meisel of Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing reported about a recent 1.5 day trip where they caught their limits of yellowtail and 55 yellowfin tuna. Meisel reported that they were fishing down between 160 and 170 miles from Point Loma and that most of their yellowfin tuna were caught on the troll. He said they had 18 trolling stops on the day and were often getting doubles and triples on the troll. Meisel said that for some reason the yellowfin tuna were not biting on the bait that well but he said they were picking some yellowfin up on the iron that was fished on the slide following a trolling stop.            

Capt. Chuck Taft of Legend out of H&M Landing reported about a recent 2.5 day trip where they caught 300+ yellowtail and 54 yellowfin tuna. Taft reported finding their best fishing while working areas between 160 and 180 miles from Point Loma and said that there were tuna caught as close as 100 miles from Point Loma. Taft estimated that their yellowfin tuna ranged in size from 8 to 15 pounds and said that the yellowtail they were finding went from 3 to 30 pounds and said that most were in the 8 to 12 pound range.            

In more local offshore waters there have been a few yellowtail biting under kelp paddies but the paddies that have been holding yellowtail have been few and far between. Areas where some kelp paddie yellowtail have been reported over the past 10 days or so are the Lower 500 Bank, the Hidden Bank and the area 6 to 10 miles off La Jolla. Boats fishing kelp paddies by the 267 Spot outside of Dana Point have been reporting an occasional yellowtail under the paddies they find and have also been catching some Spanish jacks.            

Private boater Harry Okuda of Alfresco III reported going out on a recent three-quarter day trip on San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing. Their count for the day was 20 anglers catching two yellowtail, 27 barracuda, 40 rockfish and six calico bass.Okuda said their best action of the day came from log barracuda that were biting at the South Kelp and the Ribbon Kelp. He said they caught barracuda that went to 10 pounds and that they had several barries that were in the 8 to 9 pound range. The barracuda responded well to the anchovies they were throwing for chum and the barracuda were being caught on live bait and surface iron.             
The San Diego County coastal fishing has been good for calico bass and has also been providing some barracuda action, lots of rockfish and a chance at white seabass, yellowtail and halibut.            

Kelp bed areas up and down the coast have been productive for calico bass. Most of the calicos continue to be short sized fish that fall short of the minimum 14 inch size requirement and must be released but there are some legal sized calico bass in the mix.            

Capt. Joe Cacciola of the Sea Star out of Helgren’s Sportfishing has been trying to do things to get more legal sized calico bass in their catch and one of the things he has found success with is catching 5 inch Spanish mackerel to use for bait. These Spanish mackerel have seemed to help in targeting legal sized calicos. On a recent trip Cacciola fished kelp bed areas off Carlsbad, Leucadia and Solana Beach and reported a catch that included 30 legal sized bass for seven anglers. He said that there were some sand bass in the mix but that most were calico bass.            

On their next trip Cacciola had some fresh dead squid for bait and also had some Spanish mackerel in the bait tank. They had a catch that included 24 keeper bass on that trip while using those baits. He reported that they were doing best on the fresh dead squid and were getting action on the squid when flylined and when fished on the bottom. Their best fishing came from an afternoon bite at the kelp beds at Del Mar.            

I had a chance to fish a recent trip for halibut with private boater Capt. Bob Woodard of Christina Lynn. We had excellent halibut fishing while drifting off Imperial Beach in 35 to 45 feet of water. In addition to the halibut, we also caught and released several sand bass, a 20 pound black seabass and a leopard shark. We caught 11 legal sized halibut and we released one of the smaller legal sized fish and kept 10. The halibut we kept ranged in size from 6 to 17.9 pounds and four of the halibut were up over the 12 pound mark.            

I was using anchovies for bait and caught five halibut that went from 6 to 14.9 pounds. Bob Jr. and Bob Sr. were using greenback mackerel and anchovies for bait and they were finding action on both baits. The day was topped off in storybook fashion when Bob Woodard Sr. caught the big halibut of the day at 17.9 pounds on the last drift of the afternoon.            

Catalina Island has also been producing some flurries of white seabass and yellowtail action and there has also been some good fishing for a mix of barracuda and calico bass. A productive zone for white seabass and yellowtail has been along the back side eastern part of the Island while fishing between the V’s and the Palisades West Cove has also been producing some action on the white seabass for those choosing to fish on the back side western part of the Island. Along the front side of the Island there have been calico bass, barracuda and yellowtail biting. Some of the better areas have been Eagle Rock, Indian Rock, Red Bluff, Yellowtail Point and Little Gibraltar.    

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 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

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