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Bob Vanian's 976-Bite – HOT BITE

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Huge seabass, yellows get game on!
Private boaters go to blows with yellows, seabass before winds ring the bell


Catalina, coastal action wakes up, great weather expected through weekend!

ROCKIN’ YELLOW! — No it’s not a new Zealand yellowtail. It’s a healthy 25-pound class yellowtail taken at the Rockpile south of the Cornados by Terry Hastings of Del Mar and the private boat Minorka. This was one of two 25-pound class fishthey caught last Wednesday.

The Report: What is a week in the Private Boater’s Spotlight without reports of a coastal white seabass that surpasses the tanker category and is more like a freighter, to go along with island and coastal white seabass and yellowtail bites that got ruined by weather?

Wind and weather has been a common theme to this spring, and the last round of weekend weather was beyond gnarly, with gusts to over 40 miles-per-hour and dangerous seas outside of all the bays and harbors in small craft and gale warnings on Sunday.

The weather that was more winter than late-spring like resulted in a fatal accident on Sunday when a party of four were involved in an accident near Dana Point off Strands Beach. Three survived, but Orange resident Dave Benet did not survive after a wave washed them out of the boat just offshore of strands. None of them were wearing lifejackets.

The accident serves as a reminder of how weather warnings should be respected by private boaters no matter how close they are to a harbor or bay.

The wind and weather shut down the reports over the weekend, save for reports of anglers running in with their tails between their legs on Saturday.

The most recent angler to run back to the barn with a 60-plus-pound white seabass came from Billy Seiler. He scored a 64½-pound white seabass early in the week. Salt Creek to Main Beach in Laguna and Imperial Beach down by the U.S./Mexico border were two zones that kicked out huge white seabass — although not in big numbers. Finding the bait and birds was the key to getting the big white seabass.

Up around Salt Creek the bait balls have also been holding thresher sharks. Tim Husband reported fishing the bait balls off Salt Creek on his 28-foot Parker and going 2 for 3 on thresher sharks, releasing 60 and 150 pounders.

Mark Wisch at Pacific Edge Tackle reported that the coastal/island white seabass scene was looking prime before the big blow.

“There were some very good private boat scores over at Catalina and that fish that bit early in the week from Salt Creek to Laguna,” reported Wisch. It was the island scene that was really looking to be something before the wind kicked in. “A big school swam in and filled just about the whole island. There were fish caught in several different zones.”

The East End of the island got the most attention late in the week on Friday and Saturday, partially due to the weather getting gnarly on Saturday, keeping anglers confined to the East End.

Bait (as in live squid) is no longer an issue. Wisch said there are multiple bait spots at the island, both on the front and the back of the island, with Ben Weston and the Palisades — which are known to kick out lots of bait grounds bites this time of the year — being two of the better zones. Still, with all this weather and mixed conditions, Wisch put it perfectly when he said “We still won’t know for a couple of days what all this did to the island.”

Still, with bait in place and such good signal on the seabass to go with better weather in the forecast the timing could be great for the WON/Yamaha White Seabass Jackpot that is scheduled for this weekend out of both Dana Point and Two Harbor. (All the details on the event and on-site sign ups can be found on  this website. Sign up Saturday from 9:30 to noon at Catalina's Two Harbors Pier or Dana Point Launch Ramp.) What a great way to get in on the great fishing and win some prizes and add to the weekend experience. 

The other big news was the yellowtail bite that went off at the Coronados on Tuesday for the sportboats. The news spread fast. Rick Marin at H&M Landing said he was on the sportboat Malihini on Wednesday — as in the day after the bite — and counted 75 skiffs and private boats on the Rockpile. The fishing took a huge dip, but skiffs still scored on the yellows


“The hot yellowtail bite was down at the Rockpile with most of the fish being caught while fishing on the anchor and using live sardines,” said Bob Vanian at“Some private boaters also reported success while slow trolling nose hooked sardines at around a-knot-and-a-half of speed. The yellowtail were good sized fish that were running between 16 and 30 pounds.”

Some private boater catch reports coming from the Rockpile were Mike Bratton of the Scott’s Johnny who fished aboard a friend’s boat on Wednesday and reported 9 yellowtail while fishing on the anchor and using sardines.Captain Ron Bowers of the Salt Fever also fished on Wednesday and reported 4 yellowtail while drifting with sardines.Tony Del Monte of the Black and Blue was out on Wednesday and he reported catching 3 yellowtail to 28 pounds while fishing sardines while on the anchor.

John Carroll of the Huachinango fished on Thursday and reported 1 yellowtail that he caught while slow trolling sardines at the Rockpile.Dave Campbell of the Challenger fished with his son aboard on Thursday and reported that they caught 3 yellowtail while fishing slow trolled sardines.

Scott Zachary of the Hole slow trolled sardines at the Rockpile on Friday and the technique produced 3 yellowtail. These were nice sized fish that went from 20 to 30 pounds.

The Coronado Islands have also been producing some pretty good numbers of calico bass and barracuda.The best areas have been the Ribbon Kelp along the lee side of South Island and at the hard bottom inside of the north end of South Island.

The middle part of the week saw some excellent barracuda fishing for boats fishing between the Imperial Beach Pier and the Mexican border.Spots of diving tern birds found in the 9 to 15 fathom depths were producing the barracuda. Also in the mix were some huge seabass to over 50 pounds.

“There were some great big white seabass holding under some of the barracuda schools and you had a chance at hooking a white seabass if you could get a sardine past the barracuda and down toward the bottom,” added Vanian.There were 54 pound white seabass reported by private boaters that were fishing on Thursday and on Saturday.

There’s been some good local bass fishing along the San Diego County coast as well.

“The Point Loma Kelp Beds have been producing some very good numbers of calico bass but similar to the fishing elsewhere, the bite was hurt by the rough weather over the weekend,” finished Vanian.Some productive kelp bed areas were found at the Lighthouse, Dropoff, Lab and Green Tank.

Moving way up north, Jeff Stulberg ran a quick 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. trip on his Good Karma. After loading up on rockfish off the north end of Morro Bay they decided to switch over to salmon.

“We decided to drop in the salmon gear on a big bait ball we metered on the way home and were rewarded with a fat 15-pound king,” said Stulberg. “That fish came on a watermelon Apex fished at 80 feet on the down rigger in about 130ft off Cayucos. We hooked and lost another salmon on the next pass through the bait, but had to call it quits early due to wind and swell.”

KURT RIEDL fished his Hobie Outback off the Red Buoy at Dana Point Head for this 38-inch halibut. The 21-pound flattie took a 9-inch mackerel fishedthree feet off the bottom in large swells. The bite is getting better on the flatties, and they are eligible to compete against the white seabass andyellowtail in this weekend’sWON/Yamaha White Seabass Championship. Under the new Dana Point/Catalina format, kayakers now have their own division but compete with boaters in the nine optionals.


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