Bob Vanian's 976-Bite – HOT BITE

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Good winter fishing includes a chance at bluefin tuna!
The past week has not seen any strong weather systems pass through Southern California but there have been some days that have brought breezy weather and high seas. On the days when anglers have been able to get out on the water and fish in good weather conditions there has been some fun wintertime fishing to be found. The current NOAA weather forecast is calling for more poor weather conditions to come with strong winds and high seas in the forecast for Sunday and Monday.

The past couple of weeks have seen some drift net commercial boats catching a mix of 60 to 90-plus pound bluefin tuna, a few thresher sharks and an occasional swordfish or mako shark while fishing areas between the Ridge area out between 32 miles and 50 miles from Point Loma.

The drift boats set their nets to fish in the dark and in addition to the fish being caught in the nets at night, a couple of the net boats have also been doing a bit of rod and reel fishing during the daylight hours. There has been an occasional yellowtail hooked under a kelp paddie during the day and an occasional bluefin hooked on Flat Fall jigs that are dropped down to meter marks. The fishing in this sector was better last week than it has been this week but the good news is that there are still bluefin, yellowtail, swordfish, thresher sharks and mako sharks holding in local offshore waters that are being caught at the end of January.

There are also still a few Skippers trying the deep drop method for swordfish but the fishing has been slow. There is a very occasional bite being reported that is thought to be from a swordfish but I do not know of any swordfish being boated using the deep drop method since the first part of January.

The main areas that have been 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. As talked about above, with the drift net boats catching a few swordfish while fishing the Ridge area in the region of the 138 Spot and the 181 Spot, those would also be likely spots to try deep drop fishing for swordfish.

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 and lingcod along with an occasional flurry of bonito or yellowtail action.

As an example of the recent fishing, last Saturday, the Relentless out of H&M Landing fished a 1.5 day trip and had 12 anglers catch 4 lingcod, 16 whitefish and 100 rockfish. Fisherman’s Landing had both the Tomahawk and the Pacific Queen fishing 1.5 day trips and the Pacific Queen had 34 anglers catch 260 rockfish, 10 yellowtail and 2 lingcod. The Tomahawk had 17 anglers catch 158 rockfish 11 lingcod and 1 bonito.

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 13 anglers on a three-quarter day trip catch 15 reds, 25 whitefish and 90 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 targeting species that are still open to fishing. The 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.

As an example of the recent fishing, on Thursday the Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing ran two half day trips with 42 anglers who caught 96 perch, 40 sand bass, 22 sculpin. The Sea Watch out of Seaforth Sportfishing fished a half day trip with 13 anglers who caught 11 calico bass, 4 sand bass, 2 sculpin and 26 calico bass that were released. The Oceanside Sea Center had the Chubasco II fish a half day trip with 10 anglers who caught 39 sand bass, 32 sculpin, 15 sand bass that were released, 4 calico bass and 10 calico bass that were released.

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 have also been some halibut biting in San Diego Bay.

The showings of yellowtail along the San Diego County coast have been erratic from day to day and it has been kind of quiet with regards to reports about yellowtail activity in recent days. 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 and there have also been some recent showings of yellowtail outside of Torrey Pines. A good depth range to locate yellowtail has been while fishing in 18 to 30 fathoms of water.

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 have been mackerel to catch for bait in 40-50 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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