Bluefin tuna and swordfish biting as new year approaches

SAN DIEGO—The end of 2020 has approached fast and bluefin tuna, yellowtail and swordfish have still been biting in local offshore waters.

The weekend of Dec. 19 saw three boats out looking for bluefin tuna following several days of bad weather. The good news is that 12 to 35-pound bluefin tuna, 15 to 25-pound yellowtail, large bonito and an assortment of rockfish were found biting at the Cortes Bank. Sardines were a good bait for the bluefin tuna that were biting over the weekend. If you are able to locate some of the larger sized bluefin that have gone to 200-plus pounds in recent weeks, a kite fished frozen flying fish would be a good way to go. Look for meter marks, sonar marks, spots of breaking fish and spots of breezing fish to locate bluefin tuna.

The other offshore fishing activity going on during this late part of the 2020 fishing season has been deep drop fishing for swordfish. The 9 Mile Bank remains a central area of activity, with the 178 Spot, the dropoff shelf outside of Mission Bay and La Jolla, the La Jolla Canyon and the Carlsbad Canyon all being areas where boats have been spread out and getting occasional bites. Best baits for the swordfish have been large frozen squid, mackerel and bonito.

The fishing at Los Coronado Islands remains good for a mix of bonito, yellowtail, reds and assorted rockfish. Most of the yellowtail have been found and caught by sportboats via locating the fish with scanning sonar and it has been difficult for most private boaters to locate yellowtail with the use of a traditional up and down style fathometer. The best recent sportboat yellowtail count was when San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing fished a full day trip on Dec.19, 2020 with 34 anglers who caught 23 yellowtail, 170 reds and 94 rockfish.

The yellowtail biting at Los Coronado Islands have been in the 8 to 18-pound range and have been biting best on yo-yo iron, dropper loop fished sardines and flylined sardines.

Productive areas for bonito have been at North Island, the Middle Grounds and the lee side of South Island with the Pukey Point area of North Island being the best. The bonito have been biting on sardines, small chrome jigs and trolled Rapalas.

Fishing for rockfish around Los Coronado Islands has been good with the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank and the hard bottom to the east, northwest and north of North Island providing some of the best action for a quality mix of reds, salmon grouper and assorted rockfish.

The fishing along the San Diego County Coast remains mostly in a rockfish fishing mode with good numbers of reds and assorted rockfish biting but there have been occasional showings of yellowtail off La Jolla, Mission Bay and the Green Tank at Point Loma. There have also been some sand bass and calico bass caught off Imperial Beach, Point Loma and Mission Bay.

There have been occasional flurries of sand bass biting at hard bottom areas off Imperial Beach as well as while fishing hard bottom spots to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma. Some calico bass have been biting for boats fishing hard bottom areas off the Point Loma Lighthouse as well as while fishing the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay.

An occasional halibut is being caught by boats drifting the sandy bottom next to hard bottom areas off Imperial Beach. Occasional halibut are also being reported by boats fishing off South Carlsbad as well as at the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon shipwreck and the sunken NEL Tower that are located outside of Mission Beach.

Hard bottom and structure areas have been producing the good fishing for rockfish along the San Diego County coast and productive areas include the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the International Reef, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank, the 270, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia, Carlsbad and Box Canyon.

If the weather and water conditions remain stable the 2020 offshore fishing season looks like it might just roll right into 2021 on New Years Day. It will be interesting to see what happens and how long it will take for someone to catch the first bluefin tuna or the first swordfish of 2021.

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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