Yellowtail and Barracuda Biting at Los Coronados Islands

By: Bob Vanian

Surface fishing season has started in traditional fashion, with the arrival of both yellowtail and barracuda at Los Coronados islands. Anglers are enjoying having these exciting surface species to target after a long winter of fishing for an assortment of bottomfish species.

The reports from Los Coronado Islands are favorable, with regard to water conditions and the number of fish being seen and caught. Anglers hope this showing of yellowtail and barracuda marks the beginning of what will be a banner fishing season.

The best yellowtail catch of the young 2012 season was made by San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing on May 3. The boat’s 22 anglers returned with 48 yellowtail and 11 barracuda. The yellowtail were good-sized fish, with most running between 15 and 20 pounds — with some bigger fish to 25 pounds also in the mix.

Capt. Chuck Taft of Sea Adventure II out of H&M Landing fished a recent overnight trip to Los Coronados islands and reported finding favorable water conditions, with 63.5 to 64 degree clean water most everywhere they went. Taft was also encouraged about the fact that they were finding yellowtail and barracuda holding at numerous kelp beds and rocky reef areas around the islands. That indicates a good volume of fish have moved into the area.

The yellowtail and barracuda have been biting best on sardines and surface iron, with an occasional yellowtail also caught using yo-yo iron. Most of the fishing is being done while sitting at anchor — but there are also times when action is coming from stopping alongside a spot of fish found on the surface, or by stopping over a school of deep-swimming fish found with scanning sonar or a fathometer.

The best area has been the Rockpile. The South Kelp Ridge, South Kelp, 5-Minute Kelp, Ribbon Kelp and Middle Grounds are also producing action. The Middle Grounds, Ribbon Kelp and 5-Minute Kelp areas tend to come to life and produce their best action during the afternoon.

There are also some yellowtail being found by boats fishing along the San Diego area coast. Spots of breezing yellowtail have been reported by boats fishing along the outside edges of the kelp beds from the Green Tank at Point Loma on up to the upper end of La Jolla. It has been hard to get these yellowtail to settle down and bite, but every once in a while someone succeeds and catches a nice-sized fish.

The Imperial Beach area has also provided a bit of coastal surface fishing action, with a few barracuda being reported by boats that located fish under diving birds in the 16 to 20 fathom depths. No big numbers of barracuda have been reported in this zone yet, but the hope is that the early arriving fish might be followed by some good-sized schools.

It is the time of year when calico bass start to become active in the local kelp beds, as the water begins to reach the 63- to 64-degree temperature range. There was a recent report of some pretty good calico bass fishing found by a boat fishing the kelp beds in the Carlsbad area. So, improvement in the kelp bed surface-oriented calico bass fishing appears to be under way.

San Diego area coastal fishing has also been good for an assortment of rockfish and sculpin, along with an occasional bonus halibut or white seabass. An occasional good-sized white seabass has also been reported by anglers fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla.

Good-sized halibut have been active along the San Diego area coast. No big numbers of halibut have been biting, but there is a chance at a trophy-sized fish.

Capt. Ron Baker of Point Loma out of Point Loma Sportfishing has been specifically targeting halibut on some of his recent three-quarter-day trips. Baker fished a recent three-quarter-day trip to Imperial Beach, where eight anglers caught four legal-sized halibut, five sculpin and six short-sized halibut that were released. One of the halibut was one a trophy-sized fish reported to weigh 33 pounds.

Capt. Ernie Prieto of Chubasco II with Chubasco 2 Sportfishing also reported a recent three-quarter-day coastal trip out of Mission Bay, where the catch included a 33-pound halibut. They also had a yellowtail on the trip and had a fish count of 22 anglers catching one halibut, one yellowtail, 19 reds, 64 rockfish and 11 salmon grouper.

One of the best areas for halibut fishing has been outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, in 30 to 50 feet of water. Another productive halibut zone has been in the stretch between Mission Beach and the Marine Protected Area closure zone at Pacific Beach. A good depth range in this zone has been 30 to 60 feet, for anglers who are drift fishing.

Halibut in this region have often been caught at the sandy bottom adjacent to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower and the sandy bottom adjacent to the structure of the Yukon Shipwreck. You can see maps of all the MLPA closure and restricted areas that include their GPS coordinates at the California Department of Fish and Game website at

Private boater Robb Lane of AJ was involved with organizing the 42nd annual Southwestern Yacht Club Bottomfishing Tournament, to benefit the San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Medicine.

The bottomfishing was good for the May 5 tournament, and the biggest rock cod weighed in at 7.75 pounds. They also had two lingcod that in excess of 20 pounds and two more lingcod that weighed between 7 and 8 pounds.

The top club award went to Southwestern Yacht Club, which had a two-boat total of 57 pounds after weighing the top five fish from each of the two boats. Lane reported that it was a very successful event, with more than 300 people participating.

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 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.

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