Wintertime fishing remains good

SAN DIEGO—The cold water winter fishing season has finally set in but that does not mean the fishing has been slow. The best overall fishing has been for boats traveling down the Mexican coast on 1.5 and 1.75 day trips to fish the waters off Punta Colnett. The fishing off Punta Colnett has been producing very good mixed bag bottom fishing for reds, rockfish and lingcod and has also been providing a chance at finding some surface fishing fun from yellowtail and bonito.

A recent fish 1.5 day trip aboard Pacific Queen out of Fisherman’s Landing to Punta Colnett had 33 anglers catch 141 rockfish, 114 reds, 13 lingcod and 19 yellowtail. H&M Landing had Ocean Odyssey fishing a 1.75 day trip with 28 anglers catch 250 rockfish, 150 reds, 18 bonito and 2 yellowtail.

Most of the yellowtail being caught off Punta Colnett have been quality sized fish that are in the 15-to-25-pound class. Punta Colnett yellowtail often bite best from stopping on meter marks and sonar marks and fishing with yo-yo iron or with sardines that are fished on dropper loop rigs.

In more local offshore waters, there has not been much recent news on deep drop fishing for swordfish but during the first week or so of the new year there was a bit of deep drop swordfish fishing activity reported by boats fishing between the 178 Spot and Oceanside as well as at the Avalon Bank and the 152 Spot off the East End of Catalina.

Recent reports coming from Los Coronado Islands are of very good fishing for reds and rockfish. The last reports of surface fishing activity from Los Coronado Islands were from a week ago when there were good numbers of small bonito biting around North Island.

The reports about good rockfish fishing around Los Coronado Islands have been coming from areas such as the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank while fishing on the Mexico side of the border as well as from hard bottom areas to the north and the northwest of North Island in the 35 to 50 fathom depths. Another productive rockfish zone has been at hard bottom areas below and outside of South Island in 25 to 40 fathoms.

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 January 1, 2021. Those wishing to fish for the rockfish/groundfish species covered by the closure will need to travel into Mexican waters.

With the annual rockfish/groundfish closure in effect in Southern California waters until March 1, 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 pretty good to good fishing for the calico bass, sand bass and sculpin reported and there has also been occasional yellowtail and halibut activity.

The yellowtail fishing has been scratchy but there have been a few schools of yellowtail around that occasionally show in an area ranging from Sunset Cliffs on up to the upper end of La Jolla. The yellows tend to show best during the morning hours and locating areas of bait has been a good way to try and position yourself to be in the right spot at the right time if and when the yellows decide to show.

Most of the yellowtail activity has been found while fishing in the 18 to 35 fathom depths. Surface iron works best when cast to yellowtail that are found 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 on 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 yellowtail found along the coast have been quality sized fish with most up in the 15-to-25-pound class.

Much 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. The best area for sand bass has been fishing outside of and below the Imperial Beach Pier in 7 to 12 fathoms. Also productive has been the structure of the Imperial Beach Pipeline and hard bottom areas outside of the Pipeline. Going further north, other productive halibut areas have been 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.

There have been a few halibut biting in areas up and down the San Diego County coast. Try sandy bottom beach and bay areas and spots where you can fish sandy bottom next to structure or can fish sandy bottom adjacent to hard bottom.

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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