By: Bob Vanian
The spring fishing season has been an encouraging one for San Diego area anglers, with good water conditions and some nice-sized yellowtail around and biting at Los Coronados islands and at La Jolla. Good numbers of barracuda have been biting out at the Coronados during the past two weeks of the spring season, but the barracuda have played hard-to-get for the past couple of days.
The yellowtail out at Los Coronados have been good-sized fish, with most running in the 18- to 25-pound class. The weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, the Ribbon Kelp, Five Minute Kelp and South Kelp have all been producing yellowtail and barracuda.
Anglers are catching fish while anchored — and also while drifting by schools of fish they find with scanning sonar or spot visually up on the surface. Some private boaters have reported success slow-trolling nose-hooked live sardines or trolling blue mackerel color X-Rap Rapalas.
The water conditions are favorable out around the islands, with 64- to 65-degree clean blue to blue-green water being reported.
Seaforth Sportfishing had two overnight trips and two three-quarter-day trips out fishing around the islands May 19 — and 110 anglers returned with a combined catch of 56 yellowtail, 20 barracuda, 92 rockfish, 6 calico bass, 20 whitefish, 29 sculpin and two lingcod.
The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been productive for a mix of rockfish, sculpin, calico bass, halibut and yellowtail. The upper end of La Jolla has been the best place for a chance at a yellowtail — and the yellowtail have been good-sized fish running between 25 and 35 pounds.
Yellowtail here are being caught in depths of 80 to 140 feet. The yellows have been biting best during the late afternoon and evening, on slow-trolled small mackerel. They have also been biting on drifted sardines, drifted mackerel and surface iron.
The best way to locate yellowtail has been to find spots of fish under working birds. Those fish on the surface have been reported to be feeding on small one-inch squid and krill.
Private boater Marcus Hale of Old Blue was fishing in the Marlin Club’s Spring Shootout Tournament to benefit Friends of Rollo, May 18-19. Hale reported catching a 26.8-pound yellowtail on a slow-trolled mackerel while fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla. The big yellowtail took third place in the tournament. Hale said that he tried for white seabass, and he tried to catch squid for bait on Friday night, but he had no luck with the seabass or the squid.
La Jolla also produced the first-place and second-place yellowtail in the club’s Spring Shootout. Mark Woodard caught the big yellowtail of the tournament: a 33.4-pound fish, caught while fishing aboard Christina Lynn.
William Witkowski took second-place honors with a 29-pound yellowtail.
Capt. Bob Woodard Jr. of Christina Lynn caught the fourth-place fish: a 25.2-pound yellowtail. Slow-trolled mackerel was once again reported to be the key in hooking one of the large yellowtail.
Private boater John Loo of Toy Boat II reported fishing off Point Loma for calico bass during the early afternoon hours, and then fishing at the upper end of La Jolla for yellowtail during the evening hours. Loo reported success in both locations — catching three calico bass at the Point Loma Kelp Beds and a 30-pound yellowtail at La Jolla.
He slow-trolled mackerel at La Jolla for two hours without getting a bite on Saturday afternoon. At around 6 p.m., he decided to drift flylined mackerel in an area a short way above were they were seeing yellowtail activity under working birds. The change in tactics brought immediate results: They got bit by the 30-pound yellowtail within two minutes of starting their first drift.
Loo said they saw signs of yellowtail while fishing in 80 to 140 feet of water, and they caught their yellowtail at a depth of about 140 feet.
The remainder of the San Diego area coastal fishing has been productive for a mix of rockfish, calico bass, sculpin and halibut.
Private boater John Rowe of Ulua reported fishing a recent mid-morning to early afternoon half-day trip off Imperial Beach. He caught several sand bass and sculpin, to go with an 18-pound halibut that was 32 inches long.
Another productive halibut zone right now is in the stretch between Mission Beach and the lower boundary of the Marine Protected Area no-fishing zone at Pacific Beach.
Capt. Bob Taft’s Top Gun 80 out of H&M Landing ran an offshore exploratory 1.5-day trip May 19. Capt. Scott Hart reported that they got down to 115 miles below Point Loma and found good-looking conditions, but nothing in the way of biting albacore or bluefin tuna.
They did find some yellowtail activity under a kelp paddy — and they hooked and lost a yellowtail. The water conditions were good, and the temperature was at 61.5 degrees.
Hart reported seeing many birds in the region, and it sounded like things were looking “fishy.” They ended up in along the coast for a short while and picked up 15 rockfish, seven lingcod and seven bonito for the day.
More boats will start making offshore exploratory trips over the next few weeks, so stand by for news about local bluefin tuna or albacore being caught, sometime soon.
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.