By: Terrence Berg
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA IS LIKE BAJA: Southern California is like the waters off Cedros and Benitos islands in central Baja this year. Water temperatures, bait, and pelagic species of fish are massed off the local coastline in unbelievable and unprecedented numbers. There is a huge mass of yellowtail averaging 20 to 30 pounds or better. Bluefin tuna are thick off the coast from just two to eight miles offshore, and the bluefin are in huge numbers from San Diego up to Newport and Huntington Beach. Yellowtail tuna from 20 to 30 pounds are increasing in numbers by the day, and schools of dorado are also flooding into local waters. Where we don’t see warm-water conditions like this until September and October most years and there is never this volume and variety of species. The conditions now are even better than our early fall warm water fishing because it will only continue to get better in the coming weeks and months. Southern California has become prime real estate for pelegics, and the fishing is spectacular.
BLUEFIN ARE RESIDENTIAL: If the bluefin tuna get much closer to the Southern California beaches, they will be showing up in the surf. Private boaters, especially, are having a field day. While the bluefin are from 30 to 40 pounds on average, fish in the 120 to 180-pound class have been caught by private boaters and spear fishermen as close as a mile to the coast and it seems like the biggest mass of bluefin is just two to eight miles from shore. Or maybe no one is going further offshore looking for them. Why not? Half-day party boats are targeting and getting bluefin. Many boats that might normally head to Catalina or Clemente on three-quarter or full-day trips are staying close to the coast. But it’s not just bluefin, there are also yellowfin, yellowtail, and dorado mixed in this same band of water. The Producer out of H&M Landing was on an overnight trip with 30 anglers fishing locally, and the 30 anglers on board had 30 bluefin, including a 120-pound class fish caught on a surface popper, 32 yellowfin tuna, and two yellowtail. (See half-day update below.)
YELLOWTAIL EVERYWHERE-SAN DIEGO: The yellowtail season that exploded at the Coronado Islands in mid-March has just continued to be exceptional and expand throughout the California Bite. It appears that the huge volume of summer fish that are normally in central Baja off Cedros and Benitos islands are massed around the Coronado and Channel Islands this year. The fishing at the Coronados continues to be exceptional for the few San Diego boats running three-quarter day trips to the islands with passengers who have Passports (required by Mexico now). Most of the boats are staying in U.S. waters, where there are also bluefin tuna (which are off limits in Mexican waters), yellowfin, and dorado. The Ocean Odyssey out of H&M Landing was out Sunday on a 1 1/2-day trip and they 28 anglers on board had limits of yellowtail (140 fish) from 18 to 32 pounds early in the morning, and then found a cooperative school of yellowfin tuna and put 140 tuna to 30 pounds on the boat. On Wednesday this week, the Condor out of Fisherman’s Landing was also on a 1 1/2-day trip with 18 anglers and they landed 90 yellowtail (limits) to 28 pounds, 35 yellowfin tuna to 40 pounds, and two dorado. The Pacific Queen, also out of Fisherman’s on a 1 1/2-day trip, had 23 anglers Tuesday and they landed 61 yellowtail, five yellowfin, and five dorado.
YELLOWTAIL EVERYWHERE-CATALINA: Catalina is the new Cedros Island. It is yellowtail central and has been producing incredible numbers of quality fish from 18 to 30 pounds for the past two weeks and has been dazzling for two months. The Thunderbird out of Davey’s Locker was on a two-day trip to Catalina. This was a 976-Tuna instructional charter with 26 anglers on Monday and Tuesday, and they landed 212 yellowtail at Catalina and one halibut. No one counted the bass or bonito. The Freedom out of 22nd Street Landing was on an overnight trip with 45 anglers and they had 114 yellowtail, 18 bonito, and one barracuda. The Pursuit, also out of 22nd Street, had 47 anglers Tuesday on its full-day trip and they landed 72 yellows and nine calico bass. The Spitfire out of Marina del Rey had 28 anglers on a bass trip, and they caught 240 calico bass (140 released), along with 20 bonito, and 12 yellowtail, almost as incidental catches.
HALF-DAY LOCAL BOAT UPDATE: The yellowtail, yellowfin, and bluefin are within easy half-day boat range from most of the fleet from San Diego up into Los Angeles and Orange County. The New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing had 43 anglers on its Wednesday afternoon half-day and they landed 11 yellowfin tuna along with 96 calico bass and two rockfish. The Patriot out of Newport Landing was on a three-quarter day trip Tuesday with 32 anglers and they had 13 bluefin to 65 pounds, 13 yellowtail, four dorado, and one yellowfin. The afternoon half-day trip on the Western Pride out of Davey’s Locker had 49 anglers on Tuesday, and they landed 21 yellowtail, 25 bonito, 48 calico bass, 12 rockfish, and five perch. The morning trip on the same boat at 43 anglers and they landed 129 calico bass (100 released) 125 bonito, 17 rockfish, six perch, and four sheephead. The Southern Cal out of Pierpoint Landing on its Tuesday afternoon half-day had 22 anglers who landed two bluefin to 40-plus pounds and 40 sculpin. There were several other bluefin lost.
BOTTOM LINE: The fishing is simply incredible and this is going to be one of those seasons that will go down in history.
INSTRUCTIONAL CHARTERS: The staff of 976-TUNA is hosting instructional charters throughout the season, offering advice to beginning or veteran anglers and on-the-water teaching of techniques for different saltwater species. The next trip is a two-day jaunt aboard the El Dorado out of Point Loma Sportfishing in San Diego leaving Monday, Aug. 31. Cost is $400 per angler. Check www.976-TUNA.com or call 562-352-0012 for details.
LANDING CONTACTS: Southern California: Virg’s Sportfishing, Morro Bay, 805-772-1222; Patriot Sportfishing, Avila Beach, 805-595-7200; Sea Landing, Santa Barbara, 805-963-3564; Harbor Village Sportfishing, Ventura, 805-658-1060; Channel Islands Sportfishing Center, Oxnard, 805-985-8511; Hook’s Landing, Oxnard, 805-382-6233 (Port Hueneme Sportfishing has merged with Channel Islands Sportfishing); Malibu Pier Sportfishing, 310-328-8426; Marina Del Rey Sportfishin, Marina del Rey, 310-822-3625; Redondo Sportfishing, Redondo Beach, 310-372-2111; Rocky Point Fuel Dock (skiff rentals for King Harbor), Redondo Beach, 310-374-9858; 22nd Street Landing, San Pedro, 310-832-8304; L.A. Waterfront Sportfishing, San Pedro, 310-547-9916; Long Beach Sportfishing, Long Beach, 562-432-8993; Pierpoint Landing, Long Beach, 562-983-9300; Marina Sportfishing, Long Beach, 562-598-6649; Newport Landing, Newport Beach, 949-675-0550; Davey’s Locker, Newport Beach, 949-673-1434; Dana Wharf Sportfishing, Dana Point, 949-496-5794; Helgren’s Sportfishing, Oceanside, 760-722-2133; Fisherman’s Landing, San Diego, 619-221-8500; H&M Landing, San Diego, 619-222-1144; Seaforth Landing, San Diego, 619-224-3383; Point Loma Sportfishing, San Diego, 619-223-1627; Islandia Sportfishing, San Diego, 619-222-1164.
Mexico Landings: Sergio’s Sportfishing, Ensenada, 011-526-178-2185; San Quintin Sportfishing, San Quintin, 011-526-162-1455.