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Bob Vanian's 976-Bite – HOT BITE

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Friday, January 17, 2020
Good winter fishing!


Good winter fishing includes a chance at bluefin tuna!
The past week has once again seen what have been mostly days of nice, fishable weather conditions. This has allowed water conditions at both inshore and offshore waters to stabilize and there are some interesting things to report.

What is most interesting are reports of drift net commercial boats catching a mix of 60 to 90-plus pound bluefin tuna, a few thresher sharks and an occasional swordfish while fishing areas between 32 miles and 50 miles from Point Loma. The fish have been spread out and have been found while fishing an area ranging from the waters between the 289 Spot and the 277 Spot on down to the area of the 138 Spot on the Ridge.


There is some relatively warm 61+ degree water in the zone where the drift net boats have been fishing and the fish have been found in the warm water. The drift net boats set their nets for fishing at night and while looking around during the day, Captains also report seeing a few nice sized yellowtail around some of the kelp paddies they locate. I do not know of any sport anglers that have been out giving this area a try, but there are some bluefin that are currently wintering in our local offshore waters.


There are still a few Skippers trying the deep drop method for swordfish but the fishing has been slow. There is an occasional bite being reported that is thought to be from a swordfish but I do not know of any swordfish being hooked or boated lately. Skippers tend to think there are still a few swordfish around in the areas they have been trying but tend to feel that the numbers of swordfish around have really thinned out.


The main areas being targeted for deep drop swordfish fishing have been the drop off shelf outside of Newport Beach, the area of the drop-off below and outside of the oil rigs in the Catalina Channel, the Avalon Bank, the Rock Quarry at Catalina, the 152 Spot off the East End of Catalina, the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank and the nearby 178 Spot. The last hookup I know of was aboard a commercial deep drop swordfish boat that hooked and lost a swordfish while fishing at the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.


Skippers have been deep drop drifting the areas mentioned above in 150 to 300 fathoms of water and have been fishing their baits at around 900 feet below the surface. Large frozen squid have been the best bait with live mackerel also producing occasional action.


Sportboats continue to fish Punta Colnett on 1.5 day trips that are mostly fishing on Saturdays. The high spot area outside of Punta Colnett continues to be productive and continues to provide very good mixed bag fishing for reds, rockfish, lingcod, bonito and yellowtail. One change from the fishing last Saturday was that the numbers of yellowtail in the counts on the 1.5 day trips to the Punta Colnett area dropped off considerably from what had been found biting in recent weeks.


As an example of the fishing, Fisherman’s Landing had both the Tomahawk and the Pacific Queen fishing 1.5 day trips to the Punta Colnett region last Saturday. The Pacific Queen had 33 anglers catch 148 reds, 130 rockfish, 1 yellowtail and 10 lingcod. The Tomahawk had 16 anglers catch 95 reds, 74 rockfish 21 lingcod and 1 bonito. The Relentless out of H&M Landing fished a 1.5 day trip last week on Thursday and they had outstanding lingcod fishing as 11 anglers caught 45 lingcod and 65 rockfish.


The yellowtail and the lingcod caught on the Punta Colnett area trips have been going up into the 20-plus pound class. Best bet for yellowtail off Punta Colnett has been to look for meter marks, sonar marks and spots of working birds. Yo-yo iron is usually the best way to go once yellowtail are located and a sardine or mackerel fished on a dropper loop rig can also be effective. Good choices for yo-yo iron included Salas 6X or 7X jigs in blue and white, scrambled egg, dorado and sardine colors.


The fishing for reds, rockfish and an occasional lingcod continues to be very good around the Coronado Islands. Productive zones include hard bottom areas to the north, northeast and northwest of North Island while working in 25 to 55 fathoms of water. Also productive has been fishing the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank while keeping on the Mexico side of the border and fishing in the 60 to 80 fathom depths. Another productive rockfish zone around the Coronado Islands has been fishing spots along the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in the 20 to 40 fathom depths.


The New Seaforth out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been running three-quarter day trips to target the bottom fishing around the Coronado Islands and as an example of the recent fishing, on Wednesday, they had 11 anglers on a three-quarter day trip catch 45 reds and 65 rockfish.


Anglers need to keep in mind that the annual 2 month rockfish/groundfish closure on the U.S. side of the Mexico border went into effect on New Year’s Day and that it will remain in effect until March 1, 2020. With the rockfish/groundfish closure currently in effect, Southern California anglers fishing in US waters have been focusing on species that are still open to fishing such as sand bass, calico bass, sculpin, halibut and yellowtail. The actual fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, perch and sculpin and there has also been an occasional halibut biting along with an occasional flurry of yellowtail action.


Productive areas for bass and sculpin have been the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom areas to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #5 at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Jetty Kelp outside of Mission Bay, the Variety Kelp while fishing below the MLPA closure zone at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.


The Imperial Beach Pipeline has been one of the better areas to find some biting sand bass and sculpin. As an example of the fishing, the Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing ran a half day trip with 12 anglers who caught 59 perch, 17 sand bass, 2 sculpin, 1 halibut and 5 calico bass.


There have been a few halibut biting out in 30 fathoms of water outside of the Yukon shipwreck off Mission Beach and in the area of the sunken NEL Tower outside of Mission Beach. There was also a recent report of some halibut biting in San Diego Bay.


The showings of yellowtail along the San Diego County coast have been erratic from day to day but the showings of yellowtail have been more consistent than they have been in recent weeks. It has not been easy to get them to bite but there have been a few biting yellowtail to be found. The main area of yellowtail activity has been spread from the area outside of Mission Bay on up to the area below the MLPA closure zone outside of the lower end of La Jolla. A good depth range to locate yellowtail has been while fishing in 18 to 30 fathoms of water with the 20 to 24 fathom depths being the best in recent days.


The yellowtail along the coast have been mostly 18- to 25-pound fish and they have been located by finding sonar marks, meter marks and spots of working birds. Once located, yo-yo iron, surface iron, mackerel and sardines have all worked for the yellowtail. Good choices for yo-yo iron include Salas 6X and 6X Jr. jigs in blue and white and scrambled egg colors. Good choices for surface iron include Salas 7X lights and Tady 45’s in blue and white, mint and sardine colors. The live baits have worked while slow trolled, flylined and fished deep with a dropper loop rig. There are recent reports of mackerel being caught for bait in 40-to 50 feet of water off the Mission Bay jetties.


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It is my goal to provide you timely and accurate information in these reports containing news from right off the water. If you require more details that include the specific location of where significant catches have been made, I refer you to the daily Member’s Reports at www.976bite.com . Those Member’s Reports contain additional specifics that include latitude and longitude coordinates and other descriptive references about where and how fish are being caught. Make the most efficient use of your precious time on the water with the use of the timely and accurate information at www.976bite.com .


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