Yellowtail Bite Rebounds in time for Spring

By: Bob Vanian

The months of January and February saw some periods of unseasonably good yellowtail fishing at Los Coronado Islands and it looks like we could be headed for a rip roaring spring season as the first part of March has seen the yellowtail bite rebound sharply after a three week lull. The water conditions around Los Coronado Islands are certainly spring like with 60 to 62 degree clean water being reported and yellowtail are around and biting in the nice water conditions.            

The most recent catch reports from boats on three quarter day trips are Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing where 37 anglers caught 34 yellowtail and one lingcod.  Malihini out of H&M Landing had 27 anglers catch 40 yellowtail and 15 rockfish and San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing had 38 anglers catch 23 yellowtail, one sheephead and 30 rockfish. H&M Landing also had an overnight trip on Sea Adventure II with 27 anglers catch nine yellowtail, eight sheephead, four lingcod, seven sculpin, 40 rockfish and 16 whitefish.            

The yellowtail are biting in a more spring like fashion than they were back in January and February when most of the yellowtail were biting on yo-yoed iron that was fished deep cruising schools of fish that were being located with scanning sonar. The recent fishing pattern has seen fish biting in a variety of ways with fish being caught while fishing on the anchor, while stopping on sonar marks and from stopping on spots of fish that are found up working on the surface. Look for yellowtail at spots like Pukey Point at North Island, the Middle Grounds, the Ribbon Kelp, the South Kelp Ridge and the Rockpile.            

Most of the yellowtail are ranging from 15-30 pounds and they have been biting on surface iron, yo-yo iron and flylined sardines. Good choices for yo-yo iron are Salas 6X and 6X Jr.s, Sumo Jr.s and Tady 4/0’s in blue and white, blue and chrome and scrambled egg colors. Good choices for surface iron are Tady 45’s and Salas 7X Lights in blue and white, sardine and mint colors.            

There has also been good rockfish fishing for boats fishing the waters around and about Los Coronado Islands. A few bonus lingcod have also been biting at the rockfish grounds. The best areas for the bottom fishing  are the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank (while fishing on the Mexican side of the border), the hard bottom to the north and the north-northwest of North Island, the hard bottom outside of the Middle Grounds and the outer ridges of the South Kelp Ridge.            

A reminder is that the Mexican authorities have regularly been inspecting boats fishing the region of Los Coronado Islands and other areas within the 12 mile limit. Private boaters have been reporting that FMM Immigration Forms, Mexican Fishing Licenses and Passports have been required for each person aboard. The FMM Immigration forms are able to be obtained over the internet at            

Other items that have been required upon inspection have been the boat’s registration papers, an FCC Ships Station License for your VHF radio and an FCC Operator’s License for the operator of the radio.Additionally, the more I read about the problems people have had at some of the marinas within Mexico, the more I am thinking it would also be good practice to obtain a Temporary Importation Permit for the boat from Mexico Customs and to also carry that document when boating or fishing in Mexico.            

Private boater Ron Bowers of Salt Fever reported being able to obtain a 10-year Temporary Importation Permit for his boat from Mexico Customs through Romero’s Mexican Service. The website Bowers cautioned that you needed to sign the document and email a signed copy of it back to the Mexican government for it to be valid.            

Private boater Dick Templin of Miss Behavin reported being able to get a Temporary Importation Permit from Mexico Customs through the services of Dona Jenkins Maritime Document Service;            

Boats fishing along the San Diego County coast are picking up a mix of sand bass, calico bass, sculpin and rockfish and are also catching a few halibut. There is also a chance of picking up a yellowtail at La Jolla. Most Skippers are very happy to be able to target rockfish again after the ending of the annual 2 month rockfish closure on March 1.            

Boats fishing out of San Diego Bay have been doing well on the rockfish while fishing hard bottom spots outside of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma. The Imperial Beach Pipeline and the hard bottom outside of the Green Tank at Point Loma have also been productive areas for rockfish.One of the better areas for a chance at a halibut along with finding some sand bass and sculpin in the mix has been while drift fishing off Imperial Beach. Try drifting for the halibut at sandy bottom areas adjacent to kelp stringers in 50-75 feet of water.            

In the La Jolla region, boats fishing hard bottom areas out westerly from Mission Bay have been catching rockfish and there have also been rockfish biting for boats fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla. A productive zone for a chance at a halibut has been while fishing the sandy bottom next to structure outside of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. Drifting the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon wreck or the sunken NEL Tower has produced some halibut. Also try drifting for halibut at the sandy bottom that is adjacent to the hard bottom area that is located just below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla.            

The upper end of La Jolla has been holding yellowtail during much of the winter season and occasional showings of yellowtail continue to be reported out in 18 to 35 fathoms of water. It is usually difficult to get the yellowtail to bite but every once in a while someone catches a nice sized fish. Surface iron is a good way to go if you can get the jig to yellowtail that are found up on the surface before they sound.Yo-yo iron is the preferred technique if you locate a school of yellows down deep via scanning sonar or with a traditional fathometer. Being prepared with your jig rods ready to go is important to being able to take advantage of any yellowtail activity that you might locate in the area.            

In the northern San Diego County region, there have been rockfish biting for boats fishing outside of Del Mar and Leucadia. Up above Oceanside, the Box Canyon area has been productive for boats targeting rockfish.            

Look for a chance at some halibut action while drifting the sandy bottom around the structure of the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and also try for halibut at the sandy bottom up above Oceanside Harbor located outside of the Golf Ball. Boats fishing out of Dana Point have reported finding some halibut activity while drifting sandy bottom around the pipeline at San Onofre and outside of the edges of kelp at the Barn.            

Spring arrives on March 20 but spring time like yellowtail fishing got here early! It is an encouraging sign for the upcoming fishing 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 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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