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Bob Vanian's 976-Bite Hot Bite

Fall fishing season continues to produce tuna, yellowtail and marlin!
The fall fishing season is approaching the time of year when our offshore pelagic fish might start migrating to warmer waters for the cold weather months. There is no doubt that some of that migration has already occurred but there is still some good fishing around in our local offshore waters with a chance at locating biting yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, yellowtail and striped marlin.

Click on the image to get the best saltwater reports daily at

The current yellowfin tuna best bite zone is in the Catalina region for boats fishing the area of the 277 Spot, the 267 Spot, the 209 Spot and the 312 Spot. There have also been some yellowfin biting in the Desperation Reef area outside of China Point at San Clemente Island. The back side of San Clemente Island is also where there are some bluefin tuna biting for boats working the 50 to 100 fathom depths in an area ranging from Desperation Reef on up to the area outside of the Runway up at the western end of the Island. Scattered kelp paddie yellowtail have been complimenting the tuna fishing and have been found in an area ranging from the offshore banks outside of the Coronado Islands on up to the Catalina Island region.

The yellowfin tuna being caught have included some good sized fish that have ranged from 10 to 80 pounds. The bluefin tuna have been quality sized fish that have been running from 40 to 100 pounds. Most of the kelp paddie yellowtail are the 3- to 8-pound fish but recent days have also seen some paddies found that have produced yellowtail that go to 15 pounds.

Most of the bluefin and yellowfin out at San Clemente Island have been caught while drifting over meter marks and fishing with live squid or live sardines. Live squid remains the preferred bait for the bluefin. The yellowfin tuna in the Catalina region have been biting from spots of breaking fish and porpoise schools and have been biting best on sardines.

On a side note, a reminder is to always check the Navy's San Clemente Island web site to make sure the part of the Island you want to fish at will be open for your trip. The web site address is

Striped marlin have been showing up in the Catalina region with scattered sightings being reported by boats fishing around the 152 Spot, 277 Spot, 267 Spot and 209 Spot. There have also been a few marlin showing while fishing 10 to 14 miles outside of Box Canyon and Carlsbad. The numbers of marlin being seen seems to be on the decline during the week with an occasional jumper or sleeper being reported.

There has not been much surface fishing news coming from the Coronado Islands in recent days as the few boats fishing around the Islands have been returning with catches that are mostly made up of near limit to limit numbers of assorted rockfish. In addition to the rockfish, there have been a few bonito biting with the weather side of North Island and the Middle Grounds providing a chance at finding some surface fishing action on bonito.

The fun fall fishing season continues with a chance at still being able to target yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, yellowtail and striped marlin on the offshore fishing grounds. I hope you have a chance to get out on the water and catch some of these fish before they leave us to winter in warmer waters elsewhere.

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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 . 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.

Jim Niemiec's Blog

Strong winds hamper upland game bird opener
What was expected to be at least a so-so upland game bird opening weekend kind of got blown apart when the first major winter storm began blowing dust and leaves across much of California. There had been reports passed on to Western Outdoor News about a huntable population of native chukar in the high desert and some good news that California Valley and Gambel's quail enjoyed a pretty good hatch, at least in some regions. This hunting editor spent a week traveling along Hwy. 395 just prior to opening weekend and saw at least a half dozen coveys of valley quail, one of which was on property adjacent to the Lone Pine Pheasant Club and surprisingly another smaller covey was spotted in Long Valley of High Sierra country at Arcularius On The River fly fishing ranch property that is traditionally home grounds for sage hens.

SUCCESS ON OPENING DAY OF CHUKAR SEASON — Hoss Hamman of Alta Loma was in the right spot when small coveys of chukar were flushed and was rewarded with 3 chukar for the day while on a hunt with High Desert Guide Service. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Timing of the trip was to arrive at chukar camp in the late afternoon the day prior to opening morning for a hunt that was arranged with veteran master guide Harold Horner of High Desert Guide Service, (760) 447-1030, based out of Victorville.

Winds out of the north started kicking up just outside of Kramer Junction, but the drive east on Hwy. 58 was not too bad with hardly much of any cross winds for RV's, trucks and SUV's heading out to distant high desert recreational spots to contend with.

As we unloaded chukar hunting gear and began getting settled in the new four-bed custom bunkhouse of Horner's desert ranch headquarters, a covey of just four chukar came down for a late afternoon drink from the nearby well with the temperature still holding at 89 degrees.

"Those are the first chukar that have come to this water source in over 4 years and that's a good sign that maybe things in this part of the high desert are starting to turn around. We'll leave those birds alone and spend tomorrow hunting some of the more distant higher mountains where there have been more huntable numbers of chukar based on our recent scouting ventures," said Horner.

On chukar hunts with Harold Horner there is no need to get up at the crack of dawn, although after a very enjoyable evening tri-tip dinner, served with a massive BBQ baked potato and greens there was time to catch up with a some very good hunting friends after an absence of chukar hunts for the past 5 years. Bed time came under a bright full moon with expectation of a successful chukar hunt in the morning.

Horner's chukar hunting plans are always, weather conditions permitting, to allow chukar that spend the night in the highest and most rugged of volcanic rock that Mother Nature ever created. Then all the birds get moving after different coveys sound off to each other across distant canyons and rocky out croppings. Normally hunters don't leave camp until after 8:00 a.m., making the 4WD ride up rocky mountain roads to positions that would place hunters between a route chukar often take as they feed towards maintained guzzlers. It has been this dedicated chukar hunter's observation; that chukar are not that predictable depending on weather and other of natures' variable factors and the best plans are more than often blown apart as chukar travel a different trail or (as was the case on opening morning) hunker down to escape the howling winds gusting to 30 mph!

Where we too late or too early to spot birds moving along rugged and jagged hillsides? The consensuses of opinion was that strong windy conditions and a full moon perhaps contributed to a change in these high desert region chukar's pattern.

This hunt would be my yellow Lab, Sierra's first native chukar hunt and I so much wanted to shoot a chukar for her and spend a few minutes rewarding her for her efforts on a long retrieve and careful bird to hand.

While moving from one canyon to another this WON editor asked Horner just how smart chukar are and whether or not this year's brood, after 4 years of not being hunted, would be easier to hunt.

"These are native wild upland game birds and they can live for up to maybe 4 years. As for the younger birds being easier to hunt, I don't think that is in their genes. Those adult birds that have survived our severe drought conditions will still be alert and look outs for a covey. I don't want you to even blow your SportDog whistle to keep Sierra in tight, just let her hunt, blowing a whistle will only alert these chukar that danger is nearby," voiced Horner.

Horner had scouted the week prior to opener and said that there were huntable coveys of chukar in a few spots, but not a lot of birds spread out as were conditions a few years back. Our party couldn't locate any of those larger coveys although there were plenty of fresh tracks around guzzlers and in dry arroyos. After an all day hunt and lots of tough hikes into chukar country the harvest was just four chukar and a few missed shots. Sierra did get her first native chukar retrieve as this shooter folded an adult bird flying overhead with a single round of Federal Prairie Storm FS Steel shot.

Horner opted to pass on hunting Sunday due to strong winds and a building storm front moving across the high desert. Horner will be guiding for chukar and quail this season and told Western Outdoor News that upland game bird hunters will have to be in good condition to find birds in those rugged mountain ranges.

Merit McCrea's Blog

Fish finder physics: what am I looking at?
This little ditty here is about answering that enigmatic question, "What the I heck am I looking at on this here fishfinder?" "Oh", says someone, "sand bass are yellow, and calicos are more green." Then someone else says, "My fish finder shows little fish on the screen, with numbers." Then someone else says, "I can tell when the bottom gets harder because it gets thicker." What the heck is the deal?

Modern fishfinders are full of features, often so complicated to adjust and change, most simply turn them on and hope for the best. Some draw little pictures of fishies, with little numbers by each. Some automatically adjust the depth range and other features.

While most private boaters see the Lowrance meter as one of the top offerings, with brands like Garmin and Hummingbird being tough competitors, a quick trip to the wheelhouse of any commercial or party boat reveals the pros seldom if ever run these machines.

Instead it's all Furuno all the way. Sometimes you'll see an old Sitex machine, or Ratheon. You may spot the side-scan sonar instead, usually a Wesmar displaying on a computer monitor. On scientific research vessels, you might see a Simrad or two. In commercial applications, Furuno has a reputation for big power, robust performance, and until recently, a lot fewer seldom used, software derived bells and whistles.

In the past it was all about transmit power, gain control, range and zoom. All the rest was fluff. Tuning the meter was a tech's job, done once for each transducer.

Commercial grade transducers weigh in pounds, not ounces, and are always mounted through the hull, for best performance.

The basics are these, and I'm staying away from CHIRP technology and multi-beam, phase-shift analysis. The transducer smacks the heck out of the water, clicking off an audible sound. Standard frequencies are 50,000 (50 kHz) and 200,000 hertz (Hz, or 200 kHz), or cycles per second, and it's acoustic, SOUND.

For comparison, we hear sounds from about 30 Hz to about 20,000 Hz. The sounder's audible click is a result of the quickness and power behind the transmission. It's too quick and too high frequency to hear as a tone.

As any sound, it spreads out in water, traveling out in all directions, but more powerfully in one. The transducer also listens for echos, (echo sounder), and can further limit the directionality by limiting the listening direction.

Nevertheless, this is not perfect, and tech types talk about the width of the "cone." The fish finder finds stuff, not just directly under the boat, but also off to the sides some. But it plots it all on the display along a straight down line, even though a lot of echos are heard from off to the side.

This is where physics plays a roll. Lower frequencies tend to spread more easily. They also have a harder time reflecting off small stuff, unless it's packed together in mass. Lower frequencies remain strong over longer distances too. Sound also travels much faster and better though water than air.

So, that 50 kHz setting is better for deeper water. At the same time, you will get a sharper image from 200kHz. and it will still work at higher hull speeds. More transmit power is always better and costs a lot more.

Here's where it gets tricky. That cone of broadcast/reception... -though manufacturers give hard numbers in degrees, as if the cone had a hard edge, it does not. Instead, that spec. typically only refers to the point at which a given target, or "fish's" echo would be at half of loudness of what it would be a the same distance straight under the ’ducer.

Imagine a single fish out in front of the boat a little, you would first begin to see it a little deeper than it really is, because it's farther away. As you come over it, it get's closer and the echo is stronger, then passes under, becoming weaker and farther again. You end up seeing one of those graceful little fish arches!

Some fish never pass straight under, and you get a weaker, less arched fish. Sometimes fish are all jammed together and you get an amorphous mass, with half-arches on the edges.

It's really hard to tell species from color, takes some practice with a specific meter and gain setting. If the gain is self-adjusting all the time, you're hosed. You need the thing set on manual gain. Manual depth helps too, so the screen doesn't jump ranges as you come over big kelp, or bait schools.

Different types of fish do reflect sound differently, and they behave differently too. A key trick here is to use the higher frequency if you are looking for them in a cluttered water column. Where you might do fine looking for 100-pound tuna in open water with 50 kHz, looking for sandbass inshore, you'll need to use the 200 to see individuals.

Fish-wise, two things are really reflective, air and heavy bones –basically any big density change. So, air filled anchovies boom back echos, and so do big air bladdered seabass and barracuda. Sharks have those "dentigenous scales" and show well. Bat rays are big and flat. Salmon are thick but fine boned and have small gas bladders. Individual salmon show thick but faintly, and are often mixed in bait schools, very tough to spot.

You are really looking for the heaviest marks in the school, to identify how reflective your targets really are. Barracuda tend to be high in the water, while seabass tend low. Both tend to stay at a given depth. Tuna and yellows zoom up and down pretty easily, but tuna tend to dart up under the boat to feed while the main sleepy herd holds down near the first hard thermocline. It's hard to see anything except bottom super shallow because that cone tip is so small there.

A faint "schmootz layer" of gellies and other plankton frequently forms at the uppermost thermocline. Then there is squid, highly mobile, big blobs to small slashes, not as reflective as sardines and anchovies, sometimes forming a thin "carpet" on the bottom during the day on nests.

Lastly, there's the bottom. This meters out to the side too, and it's always out there. That's why the bottom has thickness on the meter. You're not really seeing "below the bottom" much. But, if there's a rock or wreck off to the side/in front, you'll begin to see it below the bottom first, as it echos back at distance. As you get close, it will show more and more, the bottom will thicken. Finally as you come over it the depth will begin to shallow.

Booming power, just the basics, a clutter free screen and practice seeing marks on the meter and seeing what you catch are what you need to learn what you are looking at. Letting software developers guess what fish look like is like letting non English speakers develop voice recognition software. So just turn those little fishy icons off, if you can figure out how.

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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:


Three drown in June Lake mishap
Tragic sinking in heavy winds


Special to Western Outdoor News

JUNE LAKE— The arrival of the first severe winter storm of the season in the Eastern Sierra has apparently claimed three lives on June Lake.

About 10 a.m. Saturday, a boat with five men aboard capsized in winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour.

The Mono County Sheriff’s Department issued the following statement.

“Saturday morning, at approximately 10 a.m., a boat carrying five male passengers overturned on June Lake. Two men were able to swim to shore, but the remaining three have not been found.

First responders searched all day until there was not enough daylight left. The search will resume on Sunday morning.

The two men who swam to shore were medically treated and released. The boaters were at June Lake on vacation, and their families arrived this afternoon. Please hold these families in your hearts and prayers as they cope with this tragic accident.”

As of press time, searchers from a number of agencies along with a specialized dive team from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department were still working to locate the three missing men. There have been no names released, but the group was reportedly from Tehachapi.

Dave Cunningham at June Lake Marina said all boat rentals at the lake had been shut down because of the wind and rain. The group apparently launched their small, aluminum boat anyway. Witnesses said when the small boat capsized, it sank immediately.

Bob Vanian's 976-Bite Hot Bite

Fall Fishing Season Rolling Right Along!
The fall fishing season is well underway and the great news is that despite the changing of the seasons, anglers fishing Southern California offshore waters still have a chance at catching species that include yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, dorado, yellowtail and striped marlin. What is changing is some of the areas that are producing the offshore fishing opportunities. The best yellowfin tuna fishing is now being found in the Catalina region, the best bluefin tuna fishing is being found out at San Clemente Island and kelp paddie yellowtail can be found over a large area ranging from Catalina on down to the offshore waters outside of Ensenada. Striped marlin have not been fished much during the week but the few reports in recent days have been about marlin being seen in the San Clemente Island and Catalina regions.

Click on the image to get the best saltwater reports daily at

The current yellowfin tuna best bite zone is in the Catalina region for boats fishing the area of the 277 Spot and in the area below the 267 Spot. The region of the 277 Spot has been the best and boats are finding action from stopping on spots of breaking fish, spots of breezing fish, sonar marks and porpoise schools. The yellowfin have been mixed sized fish that have been falling within the 10- to 40-pound range. Some of the better sportboat counts coming from this area have been up over the 50 mark on yellowfin tuna and there have been some kelp paddie yellowtail biting in this sector as well.

Earlier in the week there was some good yellowfin action being found in the region of the 181 Spot, the Corner and the 43 Fathom Spot, but counts coming from those areas have been slipping as the week has progressed.

Bluefin tuna continue to bite out at San Clemente Island. The Desperation Reef area which has been a productive bluefin zone in recent weeks has been closed much of the week and boats have been finding some bluefin action further up the back side of the Island while fishing in the 50 to 100 fathom depths. The area outside of the Runway up near the west end of the Island has been one of the better zones for a chance at a bluefin in recent days. The bluefin are in the 40- to 125-pound range and live squid has been the preferred bait with sardines also producing some action.

Live squid has not been easy to obtain but in recent weeks, some boats have been able to catch enough to fish with at night at Pyramid Cove, Desperation Reef or the Fish Hook anchorage area. It has been hit or miss in being able to catch the squid and carrying some fresh frozen squid is a good idea to be allow you to have some squid to fish with if you cannot catch or purchase live squid. At times squid has been available for purchase from mainland bait receivers or from squid boats at Catalina but it has also been very much hit or miss in being able to locate live squid for purchase.

On a side note, a reminder is to always check the Navy's San Clemente Island web site to make sure the part of the Island you want to fish at will be open for your trip. The web site address is

The fishing around the Coronado Islands has been producing a mix of bonito, yellowtail and rockfish and there have also been a few calico bass and barracuda biting as well. The yellowtail bite has become more hit or miss as the week has progressed but there are still some yellowtail around and biting. The best areas for the bonito and yellowtail have been the Ribbon Kelp, the north end of South Island, the Middle Grounds and the weather side of North Island (including Pukey Point.)

The yellowtail have been mixed size fish that are running from 5 to 25 pounds and they have been biting on sardines, surface iron, yo-yo iron and trolled Rapalas. Boats have been drift fishing and have been fishing on the anchor and private boaters have also been doing well while slow trolling nose hooked sardines.

Some of the three-quarter day boats that often times fish at the Coronado Islands have been fishing offshore for tuna but there have been some three-quarter day trips fishing at the Coronados. Here are the counts from the two three quarter day boats fishing the Coronados on Thursday. The Malihini out of H&M Landing had 20 anglers on a 3/4 day trip catch 5 yellowtail, 22 bonito and 157 rockfish. The Dolphin out of Fisherman's Landing also fished the Coronados on a three-quarter day trip and had 19 anglers catch 29 bonito, 5 calico bass, 3 lingcod, 26 rockfish and 1 sheephead.

The striped marlin fishing was good last weekend for boats fishing about 3 miles off San Clemente Island between Pyramid Head and the Desperation Reef area off China Point but that zone has been subject to closure by the Navy much of the week and few boats have been out marlin fishing. Today, there are some reports from boats fishing the yellowfin tuna bite area in the region of the 277 Spot that are seeing some sleeper marlin incidental to fishing for yellowfin tuna. One of the better zones where a few sleepers have been reported is below the end of the Steamer Lane to where you are fishing above and inside of the 277 Spot.

Last weekend, most of the marlin action was found by baiting sleepers and tailers and there was also action on the trolled jigs and from dropping a mackerel into the wake during a trolling strike.

The fun fall fishing season continues. I hope you have a chance to get out on the water and enjoy what remains of the 2016 offshore fishing season!

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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 . 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.

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