CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953


Bob Vanian's 976-Bite Hot Bite

Some yellowtail biting off Box Canyon
The 2014 offshore fishing season has been a great one and it appears to still be ongoing as the most recent trips to the region of the Cortes and Tanner Banks have produced catches that have included a mix of yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, skipjack, bonito and yellowtail. The numbers of tuna being caught are not what they were a couple of weeks ago, but the tuna have held in the area despite several northern weather systems passing through the region. Time will tell the story but at this point, it will not surprise me if the 2015 Southern California offshore fishing season will be capable of providing bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna action on New Year's Day.



The most recent offshore fish count that I know of was from Pierpoint Landing that had the Toronado out on a 1.5 day trip that posted a Dec. 15, 2014 fish count of 22 anglers catching 3 bluefin tuna, 8 yellowfin tuna, 18 skipjack, 7 yellowtail, 21 bonito, 150 whitefish and 79 rockfish. The Oceanside 95 out of Helgren's Sportfishing also got in on some recent action and had a Dec. 14, 2014 fish count of 9 anglers out on a 1.5 day trip that caught 6 bluefin tuna, 1 yellowfin tuna, 55 skipjack, 1 yellowtail and 2 bonito.


A couple of mild weather systems have passed through the region since the catches were made aboard the Toronado and the Oceanside 95. Maybe some boats will get back out to the Cortes Bank or Tanner Bank over the upcoming weekend to see what effect the weather systems may have had on the tuna fishing.


Sardines have been the best bait for the tuna and yellowtail and bringing along outfits with a variety of line tests with varied tests of fluorocarbon leader will allow you to adjust how heavy of line you are using if the fish get touchy. At times, anglers have dropped down to using 15-pound-test outfits and the lighter line tends to get you more bites from the sometimes touchy bluefin tuna. Having outfits equipped with 15-pound, 20-pound and 25-pound test should have you well equipped for most of the tuna fishing situations and having a heavier outfit in the 40- to 60-pound test range would be nice to have if you get into some of the nicer sized yellowtail or if you get into a wide open tuna bite. The yellowfin tuna have been in the 10 to 18 pound range, the bluefin tuna have run from 18 to 30 pounds and most of the yellowtail have been 20 pound class fish.


Skippers have been finding action in the region of the nearby Cortes and Tanner Banks in a variety of ways. Some Skippers will anchor near the high spot areas in the 18 to 25 fathom depths and others will look to drift fish after finding a sonar mark, meter mark, ball of bait, spot of breezing fish or trolling strike while fishing the shallow 18 to 25 fathom depths or while fishing in deeper water in an area spread from 1 to 6 miles east to southeast of the high spot areas at the banks.


There are still some yellowtail around and biting for boats fishing hard bottom areas along the San Diego County coast. The best area remains the rockfish grounds outside of Box Canyon which is located a short way below San Onofre. No big counts have been reported since the most recent storm passed through, but there have been some good sized 18 to 25 pound class yellowtail around and biting after the recent storms.


As an example of the recent fishing, the Sum Fun out of Dana Wharf Sportfishing was out on Thursday and had a 3/4 day count of 22 anglers catching 16 bonito, 15 rockfish and 7 yellowtail. The Oceanside 95 out of Helgren's Sportfishing was also out on Thursday and had a 1/2 day trip with 10 anglers catch 3 yellowtail. 30 rockfish, 4 reds and 8 bonito.


The yellowtail have been located by finding sonar marks and meter marks over hard bottom areas out in the 35 to 45 fathom depths. The yellowtail have generally been metered between 20 fathoms below the surface and the bottom. Sardines fished on a dropper loop rig have been working best with a few yellowtail also biting on yo-yoed iron. One Skipper reported success while using 8 to 10 ounces of weight with the dropper loop rig and said that tying a dropper loop rig tied with a "large loop" was working best.


There have also been some yellowtail metered at other hard bottom areas along the San Diego County coast. Not much has been biting in these areas but there are some yellowtail around. If you are fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time, you might be able to find some action on nice sized yellowtail. You maximize your chances of catching a yellowtail if you are already prepared to take advantage of any opportunities that might arise.


A zone where occasional yellowtail schools have been encountered is at the rockfish grounds outside of Leucadia in the 35 to 47 fathom depths. Another area where yellowtail activity has been reported in this same region has been at the ridge outside of Del Mar while fishing in the 25 to 35 fathom depths.


This morning a good sized school of yellowtail was reported to have been metered with scanning sonar by a boat fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla in 30 fathoms of water and there have been yellowtail metered out in a bit deeper water in this sector as well. Unfortunately, the yellows that were located in this zone this morning did not want to bite.


Another zone that has been producing recent yellowtail activity has been outside of Mission Bay while fishing hard bottom areas out between 25 and 40 fathoms of water. There was a report of a yellowtail being caught out in this area this morning.


Occasional yellowtail activity has also been reported outside of the Green Tank at Point Loma while fishing hard bottom out in 20 to 35 fathoms of water. Another zone where occasional yellowtail activity has been reported in the Point Loma region has been at the hard bottom to the southeast of the Whistler Buoy while fishing in 18 to 25 fathoms of water.


There has not been much fishing pressure at the Coronado Islands lately with no recent reports to pass along. At last word there were still a few bonito and yellowtail biting for those who were focused on the surface fishing. The fishing for rockfish was reported to be good for those doing some bottom fishing.


The best bet for a chance at finding some yellowtail action was to look for meter marks or sonar marks to stop on and fish with sardines or yo-yoed iron. The best areas for locating yellowtail were 1.5 miles inside of the middle and lower part of South Island, the Middle Grounds, Pukey Point and the south tip of North Island. Most of the yellowtail were being hooked down deep while fishing in the lower half of the water column.


It is great that we still have a chance at yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, bluefin tuna, skipjack and bonito in the middle part of December. I hope you have a chance to get out there and get in on the action.


* * *

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 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 timely and accurate information.


Chris Dunn - The Fishing Weatherman

The Fishing Weatherman Report for Dec. 19, 2014
Here's this week's coastal weather video forecast...

Merit McCrea's Blog

Gas under 3 bucks! Merry Christmas!
One of the best things that has happened to sportfishing in the last 10 years is the recent and predicted to continue drop in fuel prices to under 3 bucks. In this gas and diesel fueled sport almost nothing helps more than low gas prices.

Whether you blast to the islands on your own private yacht, partyboat to the spot or simply drive to the lake the frequency of fishing trips is often dictated by fuel prices. In fact I believe you can see which neighborhoods own the most toys by which have the lowest fuel prices.


When prices drop folks fuel up and go, the boat, the dirt bikes, the RV, the ATVs. These neighborhoods spend lots more in gas when it’s cheaper. Fuel vendors know and respond to this, knowing that they will do better in volume by dropping the price in those neighborhoods.


In no-toy neighborhoods, why bother; Those folks will still only buy car gas no mater how cheap it is. So no, it’s not likely due to the locally dominant political persuasion in the neighborhood.


But the why behind this fuel price drop is kind of interesting I think. Don’t get me wrong, whatever the why, I’ll take it. It would seem from the news reports that oil-producing nations in the Middle East are simply just pumping, something that for years they would not when prices fell.


Apparently the competitive dynamic there has changed. All crude oils are not created equal, and the high quality Middle East crude is the world’s least expensive to extract and refine. It can be produced so cheaply that other sources can’t compete pricewise.


In fact my cousin who is a high ranking navy man and has much experience over there maintains that the nature of the conflicts in that region of the world are much more about money, influential families and control of resources then any religious or philosophical differences.


My own perspective is concerns about global warming, no matter whether valid, over-embellished or completely fictitious have been a primary contributor to the free-fall of the price of oil. Entire nations have invested heavily in reducing oil dependency. Developing nations were encouraged not to become oil dependent.


This and new extractive technologies for domestic oil, although more expensive, and reduced dependence have blown open the oil market, one that has been kept artificially high for years. Middle East exporters have had to reduce their huge margins finally as they compete with each other, in an increasingly alternative energy ready world.


And although fishing may be a fuel intensive activity, it produces some of the highest quality food there is. All food is fuel intensive. Imagine how much diesel goes into disking, plowing and planting a field. Then consider the fuel that goes into processing and transporting grain grown, to feed chickens that we eat.


Food for a modern world simply takes lots of energy to produce, and none of us are exempt, we all eat. Some of us just eat more food that comes from the wild than others.


* * *

Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California partyboat captain, he also works as a marine research scientist with the Love Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. He can be reached at: merit@wonews.com.


Jonathan Roldan's Blog

Noche buena and a midnight clearly
I was only going to be in Baja for a year. Has it been almost 20?

The longer I am here the more Christmas seems to change a bit. The early years were surely different.


I was living out in the “country” then. Well, 10 miles down a dusty dirt road far off the pavement in the cactus and Baja scrub in a little remote Mexican bay. Far away from the city lights, I worked for a little off-the-grid hotel that only had four rooms.


And that’s all there was out there. Today, you still have to drive down a dirt road to get there and the hotel is closed and being re-claimed by the Baja sands. As so many Mexican dreams go.


I had very little then, but I often felt like I was king of the world at times. I was only half-a-step from living outta my old Dodge van at the time with fishing rods and an old one-room adobe. “Living the dream,” as many would later tell me!


I spent most nights sleeping outside in a hammock under a weathered palapa made of sticks. Jimmy, my little dog and I lived much by candlelight and a propane stove. No phones. No electricity to speak of.


And I remember it was Christmas. In the Baja. In Mexico. So far from Christmases remembered.


I remember the brisk wind and the clear starry skies overhead where clusters of the galaxies were so thick as to appear as if a huge black canvas had been lightly airbrushed with white. With no city lights, shooters streaked criss-crossing tracers from horizon to horizon.


I wore the same faded shorts and some awfully thin flipflops that had long since lost their tread. I’m sure I smelled like fish most days which is how I earned my living for the hotel taking their few clients fishing and diving.


No one ever complained about how I looked or smelled. I was part of the landscape in my ratty straw hat and cut-off t-shirts.


Mesquite was abundant so it was often just as easy to cook over a jumbled stone firepit I had made outside my little casita on the bare ground. It wasn’t much more than a rocky rise of hardscrabble Baja dirt. But during the day, the little spot had a zillion dollar view of the beach and bay that would make a realtor drool.


But not tonight. A moonless crispy December night in Baja. I could hear the waves of the bay lightly crashing against the sands down the beach somewhere in the darkness below. With barely more than the stars above, the orange glow of my little fire fought a losing battle to penetrate the darkness.


But all is calm. My fire bright. Noche Buena. Christmas eve.


I pulled my thin flannel shirt a little tighter against the chill. Me and and Jimmy the dog. I tossed another branch of twisted mesquite into the flame.


I had come a long way from American cities and holidays past. Never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned spending Christmas like this. Life takes funny turns. There’s a thin debatable line between an idiot and genius.


No tree. No carols. But, I had nature’s own magnificent light show overhead and the dancing flames of a mesmerizing campfire to hold gaze into.


Completely alone but not the least bit lonely. On Christmas. And it felt like it just couldn’t get any better.


And then, just outside the ring of flickering firelight, a shuffle of feet. A bit of laughter. Faces and smiles materializing on the other side of the orange haze of whispy smoke. The spectral ghosts of a Dicken’s Christmas?


“Que onda? Que tal, Jona! Feliz Navidad! Felices fiestas, Mano!”


It just got better.


Some of the commercial fishermen and their wives had trudged up the rise from the beach. Several packs of beer in hand and tattered beach chairs. Uninvitedly always welcome. Saw my fire. Come to join. Come to laugh. Share the warmth of a chilly evening.


My Spanish was barely elementary back then. But, some things are universal. Bridges are easily crossed with smiles, high-fives, back slaps and shared fraternal cervezas. Especially on Christmas Eve.


They already had an obvious head start on me. No formalities needed. They plopped down around the fire and it was on. No need to break the ice. I toasted and laughed and did my best to sing.


In any language…”Noche Buena” is still “Silent Night.” I had no clue about some of the other rowdy rancho songs they sang.


We whooped at the top of our lungs and lifted Tecate cans to health and family, love, life and the star-filled night. Or nothing inparticular.


You know that saying about “Dance like no one is watching and sing like no one can hear?” There’s a special child-like exhilaration attached to that.


Of all things, they started singing “Jingle Bells” in Spanish. I doubt my amigos even had a concept of a sleigh or reindeer or even snow. Ni modo…no matter! One more time with feeling from the top!


Then they asked me to teach them the song in English. Por favor!


Me leading! Oh my…ever fall over laughing? I don’t think there had ever been such a bawdy version…Christmas angels winced but couldn’t help smiling…


DOSHING TRUE DUH SNO

EN WUN WHORE’S O-PEN SLAY!

ODOR FEELS WEEGO

LOFFING OLE DUH WAY

HO! HO! HO! (Everyone jumped in on that part with gusto!)


And we laughed and snorted and guffawed and stomped our dusty feet. I stared into that campfire and thought of perhaps another chilly night in the desert many eons ago. That brought others to a spot in the desert.


Some wise guys and sheep ranchers. Amigos of different languages and cultures. Pulled in by the flame and warmth of a beckoning light.


And here we were… A bit of light in the darkness on a windswept beach knoll in Mexico. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. As primal as that. Some friends. A few beers. Laughs and smiles. A song and a welcoming campfire in the dark. Christmas Eve and all was right.


Noche Buena. Noche excelente.


EN WUN WHORE’S O-PEN SLAY ODOR FEELS WEE GO LOFFING OLE DUH WAY…indeed!


Only in Mexico! Andale and Feliz Navidad, mis amigos! God bless us everyone. Peace to you my fish brothers and sisters.


Somewhere even the angels were singing along. Once more with feeling.


Jim Niemiec's Blog

Ringnecks are kings of Mexicali valley
The short 2 hour drive from San Diego to the hunting Mecca of Mexicali valley sure beats the time and money spent to reach other prime ringneck pheasant country. Western Outdoor News was invited down to hunt with outfitter Alex Coria of HuntersOnly for 2 days of upland game bird hunting by long time WON subscribers Rick and Richard Norwood of San Diego who offer world class outdoor adventures through their company huntandgofish.com.


nativepheasanthunt
NATIVE PHEASANT HUNT — This group of hunters all bagged daily limits of ringneck pheasant while hunting with huntersonly.com in the farming valley of Mexicali. Pictured from the left are: outfitter Alex Coria, Wade Hayes, Jeff Payne, Matt Heck and booking agent Rick Norwood. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Crossing the border into Mexico was swift by way of the new international border crossing just to the east of the old crossing in Calexico. Within 20 minutes we were pulling into the driveway of the hacienda hunt lodge and were we greeted by Alex and his staff in the court yard filled with mounts of birds, mule deer, ducks, javelina and some amazingly big Coues deer racks.


After getting checked in with lodge room assignments and paperwork for hunting licenses and bird stamps, it was time to sit in the open veranda and feast on stuffed wild pheasant breasts and a selection of traditional Mexican dishes.


It wouldn't be an early wakeup call in the morning as fog was forecast and Alex said we should wait until conditions improved so that the ringnecks would be more active and flush under the pressure of the experienced bird boys.


We targeted uncut milo fields and standing harvested cotton. Hunters could opt to push through shoulder high thick cover or sit tight at the ends of the field and become "blockers". Our hunt party consisted of Rick Norwood, and WON readers Jeff Rayne and Matt Heck of Encinitas and Wade Hayes from Arbuckle. Hens flushed wildly from the heavy cover followed by cackling roosters. Only roosters are shot on Mexicali pheasant hunts to allow hens to breed and produce next year's crop of birds.


WON asked Alex about how the pheasant population was doing.


We’re seeing good reproduction across the entire valley. The abundance of water, food and cover, along with not clear cutting the fields, has benefited these birds and each year we are shooting more ringnecks with hunters bagging their 4 bird daily limit. All looks very promising for the future as well," said the experienced guide with a big smile on his face.


limitedoutonringnecks
LIMITED OUT ON RINGNECKS — Rick Norwood of San Diego bagged his 4 bird limit of native pheasant while on a hunt with outfitter Alex Coria in Mexicali. Norwood is co-owner of huntandgofish.com which offers hunting packages into Mexico and beyond. The pheasant season runs through Jan. 5 and there are still plenty of roosters in milo and cotton fields. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

All inclusive pheasant hunts are priced right when booking with Richard Norwood, the cost includes 3 days, 2 nights, hunts for both pheasant and dove, that include license, both bird tags, shotgun rental, two boxes of ammo a day, food, lodging, non alcoholic beverages and pickup or personal caravan from the U.S. side of the border to the hunt lodge. Norwood also offers what he calls a "WON Special" for a 2 day hunt, one night lodging to hunt for just pheasant that is all inclusive, except for pickup for $750.


This hunting editor has hunted pheasant in the prime farm fields of South Dakota and up in the Marysville area of Northern California, but honestly it cannot get much better than hunting the strong flushing native ringnecks of Mexicali. The weather is traditionally very comfortable with a cool morning making for excellent conditions and then warming up as the last pushes are made through a field. After a lunch break back at the lodge, hunters return to a new area to hunt for dove, of which mourning and Eurasian collared dove are hunted in big flocks. Gambel's quail are also an option, but are not inclusive of the basic hunt packages offered. Quail hold tight in thick drainage cover but flush wildly when pushed out by bird boys. Covey flushes of 15 to 25 birds is not uncommon although most quail will fly out in 2's and 3's, which makes for good gunning.


Hunters discovered the prime pheasant hunting of Mexicali decades ago when birds that were planted by the California Department of Fish and Game in Calexico fields fled across the border to find excellent habitat. In the olden days guides were not required but today you need an outfitter who has a registered UMA offering up fields across the valley. WON talked with hunters during dinner and all were very happy with the bird hunting, accommodations and were already booking return trips to finish out the pheasant season.


Traditionally the pheasant season begins in mid October and this year will run through Jan. 5, 2015, as is the season on Gambel's quail, while a special white winded dove season starts in late August. The daily bag limit is 4 roosters with 8 in possession. Unfortunately, there still is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulation in place that requires birds brought back into the U.S. be boiled. Be prepared to eat pheasant dishes prepared in many ways for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mexicali valley offers up prime habitat for upland game birds and it's closeness makes it a very do able option for hunters looking to hunt native pheasant.


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