2021 fishing season off to a fast start with bluefin tuna and yellowtail biting

SAN DIEGO—The start of 2021 brought with it an opportunity for anglers to catch a wide variety of species, with bluefin tuna and yellowtail being highlights. Anglers had to travel a long way to get to bluefin tuna but the potential payoff was a chance at getting to do battle with 150 to 250-plus pound bluefin tuna.

Some of the San Diego-based long-range boats were getting into the big bluefin tuna while fishing an area to the southwest of San Quintin at about 165 miles 155 degrees from Point Loma. The High Spot area off Punta Colnett was another hotspot area providing very good fishing to start off the New Year with good numbers of large yellowtail biting to go with lots of reds, rockfish and lingcod. Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing fished a 1.5-day trip to the Punta Colnett area on Jan. 2 and found excellent fishing with 34 anglers catching 90 yellowtail, 22 lingcod, 112 reds and 110 rockfish.

Fisherman’s Landing reports that the yellowtail aboard Pacific Queen were quality sized fish that were in the 15-to-25-pound range. Yo-yo iron and dropper loop fished sardines work well for the Punta Colnett yellowtail when dropped down to meter marks and sonar marks found in the region of the High Spot.

A reminder to anglers is that the annual two-month rockfish/groundfish closure on the United States side of the Mexico border went into effect on Jan. 1. Those wishing to fish for the rockfish/groundfish species covered by the closure need to travel into Mexican waters if they want to fish for these species in the next two months. The closure in Southern California waters will come to an end on March 1.

With the closure, skippers fishing along the San Diego County coast have been focusing their efforts on calico bass, sand bass, sculpin, halibut and yellowtail. There has been some pretty good fishing for the calico bass, sand bass and sculpin and there have also been some flurries of yellowtail activity to go with an occasional halibut.

The yellowtail biting along the San Diego County coast has drawn a lot of attention but the yellowtail fishing has been hit or miss from day to day. Yellowtail have been found spread out between the Green Tank area at Point Loma and the upper end of La Jolla. Hot spots within that zone have been off the Green Tank at Point Loma, Sunset Cliffs, the Jetty Kelp off Mission Bay, the Yukon Shipwreck outside of Mission Beach, the area outside of the Crystal Pier while fishing below and outside of the MLPA closure zone and while fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla.

Most of the yellowtail activity has been found while fishing in 18 to 40 fathoms of water and most of the bites come from stopping on meter marks, sonar marks or spots of fish found up on the surface working bait. Surface iron works best when cast to fish that are up on the surface and yo-yo iron works best when dropping down to meter marks or sonar marks. Sardines and mackerel can also be effective while slow trolled, flylined or fished deep with a dropper loop rig. Good choices for surface iron include Salas 7X lights and Tady 45’s in blue and white, mint and sardine colors. Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X and Salas 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white, scrambled egg and blue and chrome.

The morning hours have been the best for a chance at a yellowtail. The yellowtail found along the coast have been quality sized fish with most up in the 15-to-25-pound class.

The remainder of the San Diego County coastal fishing has been focused on sand bass, calico bass and sculpin with hard bottom and structure spots producing most of the fish. A productive area has been outside of the Imperial Beach Pier in 7 to 12 fathoms of water. Other productive areas include the Imperial Beach Pipeline, hard bottom areas outside of the Pipeline, the hard bottom to the northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside Harbor and Box Canyon.

The halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been scratchy but there have been a few halibut biting. Try spots where you can fish sandy bottom next to structure and sandy bottom adjacent to hard bottom. Productive halibut spots have been outside of the Imperial Beach Pier, the sandy bottom next to the Yukon Shipwreck, the sandy bottom next to the sunken NEL Tower and outside of South Ponto Beach at South Carlsbad.

Keep on fishing and I hope to see you out on the water sometime soon!

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 www.976bite.com. 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 bob976bite@aol.com.

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