Bob Vanian's 976-Bite Hot Bite

Improved weather conditions see bluefin and yellowtail biting offshore
The weather conditions during the spring fishing season have often made it difficult on anglers wanting to fish the offshore fishing grounds for bluefin tuna and yellowtail but the past few days have seen the weather conditions improve to allow anglers back out on the water to fish in decent weather. The wind is forecasted to pick up a bit again over the weekend but there are no Small Craft Advisories currently posted for the NOAA forecast covering the area outside of the stretch of coast between San Mateo Point and the Mexican Border out to 60 nautical miles. As always, be sure to check the latest marine weather forecast before you go boating or fishing.

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The bluefin bite was slow during the early part of the week but a sprinkling of 20- to 25-pound bluefin have been biting during the past few days. Good kelp paddie fishing for what are mostly 3- to 7-pound yellowtail remains the current mainstay of the offshore bite and the right kelp paddie can be loaded with fish and produce limits of yellowtail.

The most recent fish counts are from Thursday, May 18, 2017 and they start with the San Diego out of Seaforth Sportfishing that had a fish count of 30 anglers on a 3/4 day trip catching 2 yellowtail, 30 bonito and 3 bluefin tuna. The Tribute fished an overnight trip out of Seaforth Sportfishing and they had 22 anglers catch 53 yellowtail and 1 bluefin tuna.

The Liberty out of Fisherman's Landing fished a 3/4 day trip with 26 anglers that caught 36 yellowtail, 2 bluefin tuna and 62 bonito. The Pacific Queen fished an overnight trip out of Fisherman's Landing and had 26 anglers catch 99 yellowtail, 5 bluefin tuna and 27 bonito.

The Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing had a 3/4 day trip with 11 anglers catching 6 bonito, 1 bluefin tuna and 31 yellowtail.

H&M Landing had a 3/4 day trip aboard the Chief with 17 anglers catch 27 bonito and 42 yellowtail. The Legend fished an overnight trip H&M Landing and had 10 anglers catch their limits of 50 yellowtail.

The best areas for the yellowtail and bluefin have been for boats fishing between 24 and 40 miles from Point Loma while working the regions around and about the 371 Bank, the 425 Spot and the area outside of the 475 Knuckle.

The bluefin have been mixed size fish that have gone from 15 to 200+ pounds with most of the recently caught bluefin falling within the 20 to 25 pound range. The kelp paddie yellowtail have been mostly 3 to 7 pound fish with a few bigger fish to 12 pounds found in the mix.

The bluefin have mostly been biting from stopping on sonar marks, meter marks and spots of breaking or puddling fish. There is also an occasional bluefin caught from a trolling strike or while drifting with sardines near a kelp paddie. A good indicator of a zone that might be holding bluefin tuna is where you might see shearwater birds or see tern birds that are diving and picking on the surface of the water.

The bluefin have been biting best on sardines and Flat Fall jigs with Colt Snipers and surface iron also working at times. Productive jigs on the troll have been cedar plugs and the Halco 130 jig in the purple tiger stripe color pattern. Most of the yellowtail are being caught on sardines.

With the yellowtail and bluefin biting offshore, the Coronado Islands have only seen occasional fishing pressure. A report from a private boater fishing the Coronado Islands this morning was that they had an early morning showing of yellowtail under working birds while fishing along the weather side of South Island and were able to catch a 20 pound yellowtail on surface iron. It sounded slow after that early morning showing of fish went down.

The surface fishing along the San Diego County Coast has been improving over the past few days after slowing early in the week. There is currently some pretty good to sometimes good calico bass fishing in the kelp bed areas and a chance at finding a yellowtail at Point Loma or La Jolla.

One of the best calico bass bite kelp bed areas is currently at the Point Loma Kelp Beds for boats fishing areas such as the Green Tank, Point Loma College and Sunset Cliffs. This morning there was also a yellowtail caught while fishing along the edges of the kelp at the Green Tank area and boats fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla were seeing spots of yellowtail on their fathometers and were also seeing an occasional spots of yellows flare up under the birds. It was not easy to get those La Jolla yellows to bite this morning but there seems to be improving numbers of yellowtail showing up outside of the upper end of La Jolla.

John Campbell of the 2017 International Yellowtail Derby reports that the currently first place yellowtail was just caught at La Jolla. The date on the catch was today, Friday, May 19, 2017 and it was a 31 pound 9.6 ounce fish that was caught aboard a kayak by Jeremie Chapin. Chapin's catch gives him the current lead in the yellowtail division of the tournament and moved into second place a 30 pound 12.8 ounce yellowtail that was caught by private boater Chris Blevins on Saturday, May 13, 2017.

San Diego area anglers have been finding thresher sharks to be active and biting in an area ranging from La Jolla to Oceanside with some of the best action being reported in an area between La Jolla and Del Mar and at the Carlsbad Canyon. The threshers have been seen in a variety of depths while fishing in 40 to 100 fathoms of water. Mackerel have been the best baits while slow trolling on the surface with a live mackerel or a live sardine or while trolling one of those two baits below the surface using a Bait O Matic. Most of the thresher sharks have been falling within the 150- to 250-pound range.

San Clemente Island has been providing occasional flurries of yellowtail action to go along with some pretty good numbers of calico bass and good numbers of rockfish. The best yellowtail areas have been along the back side of the Island while fishing the ridges outside of the stretch between Pyramid Cove and China Point and also while fishing the area outside of and below Lost Point. A good depth range has been 18 to 23 fathoms of water.

Most of the yellows have been falling within the 15- to 20-pound range and live squid has been the best bait for the yellowtail. A few yellows have also been biting on yo-yoed iron. The squid being used for bait is being brought over to San Clemente Island from Catalina.

Catalina Island has been producing occasional flurries of yellowtail and white seabass action along with a nice mix of calico bass, barracuda, bonito and rockfish. The best zone for yellowtail and white seabass has been while fishing outside of the stretch between the V's and Salta Verde. Boats fishing spots around the East End and along the middle part of the front side of the Island have also been seeing a few yellowtail biting and have been catching some bonito, barracuda and calico bass. This morning (Friday morning, May 19, 2017) a private boater reported catching 3 of the 30 pound class yellowtail out of 4 yellowtail hookups while fishing with live squid between the V's and Silver Canyon.

The yellowtail at Catalina have been mixed size fish that go from 5 to 30 pounds with most in the 15 to 20 pound range. Live squid has been the best bait for the yellowtail and white seabass.

The best squid zone at Catalina has been in the area ranging from China Point to Ben Weston with the area outside of the V's also providing squid to catch for bait at times. Try to raise the squid boats on VHF channels 72 and 11. This morning, a squid boat that was loaded up with squid and leaving from Ben Weston was offering live squid for sale while traveling to anchor up and sell squid outside of Avalon.

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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.

Blake Warren's Blog

With most of state’s freshwater scene on rebound, OC anglers odd men out
For freshwater anglers throughout Southern California — and the whole of the Golden State in general — 2017 has so far been a breath of fresh air and a revival of sorts for many lakes and reservoirs. A much welcomed wetter-than-normal winter having brought lake levels up significantly, providing some long-needed drought relief, and replenishing ecosystems and essential nutrients throughout the state looks to have numerous fisheries bouncing back in a big way from recent dry years and trending upward for the next couple future seasons.

However, one region that still appears to be getting the short end of the stick as many watersheds are on the rebound is Orange County, which has seen its top freshwater fisheries fall by the wayside while others flourish in a rebirth of sorts.

The first proverbial shoe to drop was oft-underrated big fish-producer Corona Lake over three years ago, drying up due to drought to become essentially an unfishable puddle due to low water, and still not a viable option today despite getting some water this winter.

Then came the changing of the guard at trophy trout-centric Laguna Niguel Lake, which shifted from a private operation drawing big crowds with frequently-stocked big rainbows during the colder months to a city-run operation by OC Parks with no boat rentals available when the former concessionaire of nearly 20 years didn’t have its lease renewed late in 2015, resulting in fewer plants and smaller fish — though to be fair, OC Parks has done an fairly admirable job of getting quality trout stocks to the regional park lake.

And ultimately, the final dagger to draw blood in the area was the most unfortunate closure of highly popular Irvine Lake in early 2016, a result of a massive land transfer from the Irvine Com­pany to the County of Orange which has led to a stalemate standstill of progress as the county and Serrano Water District have ground to a halt in negotiations related to the land transfer over any potential agreement regarding the lake’s water recreation rights, keeping the lake’s gates shut and the public on the outside looking in for the time being until the situation can be settled between the two parties.

With these three popular lakes presently off the board, the lone option in the area is Santa Ana River Lakes, but not without heavier pressure due to closures at the region’s other top impoundments. A few lakes in the county’s Regional Parks system receive periodic trout plants and some opportunity, but nothing significant to sustain a full season’s pressure and demand in such a densely populated area.

The most significant — and seemingly unnecessary — loss to area anglers is clearly Irvine Lake, which was among the entire Southland’s most popular fishing spots for well over half a century before shutting its gates early last year. When the Irvine Co. made its decision to donate the 2,500-acre parcel to the county back in 2014, it was clear to all involved parties that a new agreement would have to be reached by 2016, when the Serrano Water District’s — which retains a percentage of the lake’s recreation rights — lease was up. When no such agreement was reached by that time, Feb. 28, 2016 became the last day anyone wet a line at Irvine Lake.

Here we are over 14 months later, and there is still no agreement in place between the county and Serrano, with no indications that anything imminent is anywhere near the horizon. Irvine’s gates are still closed and the biggest loser in all of it by far is the angling public, which has a gem of a fishery that generations of families have grown up enjoying right in its backyard — yet have to settle for merely looking at the lake for the time being until something is worked out between two parties that essentially view the watershed as merely dollars and cents, rather than the fantastic recreational resource that Irvine is to so many folks. It’s a shame by all accounts, no matter how one looks at it. And until the county can find a feasible way to operate a recreational concession without losing money along with reaching some type of accord with Serrano, it will remain nothing other than a shame — and a terrific fishery forced to sit idly by without much urgency on display from the powers that be.

On the bright side of things, Orange County is far more the “bummer” exception rather than the more common “things are looking up” rule.

The northern part of the state was the recipient of a whole heckuva lot of water this past winter, with many of its lakes filling (or nearly filling) to the brim. Many of the top lakes north of the Bay Area are still sitting awfully pretty heading into the back end of springtime.

In California’s Central Coast region — one of the hardest hit by the recent drought — the area’s most popular lakes are all looking fantastic, with Nacimiento and Santa Margarita essentially full, and long-maligned Lake San Antonio now once again open to recreation on a full-time schedule (starting May 19, South Shore only) for the first time since the summer of 2014 — San Antone had dipped as low as just 3 percent of capacity as recently as last year.

Castaic is as full as it’s been in quite some time and oft-visited Cachuma Lake is nearly half full after being at under 10 percent just a year ago (just to name a few), while most of San Diego County’s impoundments are enjoying increased water levels too.

So as outdoor enthusiasts and fisherfolk up and down the state are enjoying our greenest spring in years, plenty of new-look lakes that are now full of water and more outdoor opportunity than in recent memory, the freshwater scene in Orange County remains an odd blemish in an otherwise feel-good Cali­fornia fishing landscape.

Jim Niemiec's Blog

Latest storms should help upland game nesting period
Unseasonable rains, winds and cold temperatures pushed across the southern part of the state and down into Baja and mainland Mexico, but this weather pattern might have offered up just enough added rain to bring around an extremely productive nesting season for upland game birds.

Western Outdoor News sent out an e mail to outfitters, guides and wildlife biologists to find out about conditions afield and their thoughts on the upland bird populations.

doublinguponrioDOUBLING UP ON RIO GRANDE GOBBLERS — Seth Schneider of Santa Rosa Valley was on a central coast turkey hunt with his father Tom and they both harvested trophy class Rio Grande toms. It was a guided hunt with master guide/outfitter Don Anderson of Anderson Taxidermy and Guide Service based out of Atascadero.

First to check in with WON was retired DFW wildlife biologist John Massie of Ramona.

“The main factor in late spring rain and cold weather and it’s affect on newly hatched turkey chicks is how long the poults stay wet. Even fully feathered out poults have trouble with rain that lasts more than three or four days. Otherwise those little chicks still in a downy state need to be up against their mother’s skin to stay warm. Even a few drops on them can be bad if there are too many of them to get under her protective wings,” stated Massie,

Massie went on to add, “From trips out to the foothills and local mountains I don’t think that valley quail have gotten into full hatching mode yet. The peak of the breeding season doesn’t occur until earlier in the summer and I think that probably baby quail (ie, fur balls) will be all right, but it’s not the best thing that could happen.”

Up along the central coast the outlook for quail and a successful hatch of turkey poults is looking very promising. WON checked in with Don Anderson, of Anderson Taxidermy and Guide Service.

“This year should be the best in the last five years for both quail and turkey hatches and survival. The amount of rain we had this past winter and into the early spring months was double the average: grass cover is way above normal and there is a large hatch of insects which will sustain young birds. At the present time I am seeing large numbers of valley quail already paired off and they should begin nesting soon,” says Anderson.

Anderson had the following to report on how the turkeys in his area are doing, “Hen turkeys have been nesting for the last three weeks and I would expect to see young poults most any day. Because of the tall grass they could already be out there now, but they are hidden by the cover, in fact, it is hard to locate some of the adult birds because of the high and dense over out there at this time.”

The following is a combined quail outlook from both Randy Babb and Kirby Bristow, wildlife biologists for the Arizona Department of Game and Fish.

“The southwest region has received some rain during the past couple of months, not much, but hopefully enough to produce a good hatch on Gambel’s quail. The fact that were not a lot of adult birds to breed, it’s likely that numbers will be up slightly but not like they were a few years ago. Scaled quail hunting should be about the same as last year, with some pockets holding larger coveys than other areas. While the southwestern part of the state will see less than normal reproduction on Gambel’s and scaled quail the area from Phoenix on up towards Kingman should come off with a good hatch with bigger coveys to hunt,” said both Babb and Bristow.

Good reports are coming in from Baja Norte, especially after last week’s low pressure system that dropped down south and heavy rain hit valley quail country pretty good. Gregg Shobe, U.S. representative for Rancho El Coyote-Meling, (619) 390-0905, e mailed the following report.

“I have been down in the San Telmo Valley area twice this spring and it’s crazy how many paired up valley quail I am seeing. Haven’t seen much in the way of chicks so far, but it’s still early and they should begin showing up any time now. Rainfall totals at hunt ranch headquarters was about 14 inches of rain this year to date. There is plenty of ground cover and grasses. Local ranchers who got their barley and oat hay crops in early are enjoying a very successful harvest. Grain left on the ground will only help in the survival of valley quail chicks. I would be led to believe the valley quail hunting in the San Telmo Valley will be the best in a number of years,” said Shobe.

The last time this hunting editor checked in with Harold Horner, outfitter for High Desert Guide Service based out of Victorville, was in January about this fall’s chukar season led to the following:

“It appears that there is water in the high desert, the ground cover is very good with lots of bunch grass, other vegetation and insect life. I would think that if we get some rains later this spring that the chukar hatch could be the best in years,” stated Horner.

Horner added the following this past week, “Some rain fell in Lucerne Valley and there was some snow and sleet at higher elevations. Any precipitation at this critical time of the spring nesting season is good. I haven’t seen any chicks on the ground yet, as they usually don’t start showing up at our hunt ranch location until late June or early July,” said Horner.

Gary Graham's Blog

Pesca La Baja Tournaments, forging friendships
In a mere four years, Pesca La Baja SEPESCABC has established itself as one of the “must-attend” family tournament series in Baja – not only drawing residents of communities where they are held, but also a growing number of anglers from California and beyond. What’s not to like? A competitive event wrapped in a fiesta is a proven formula attractive to both locals and visitors.

DON'T MISS THIS opportunity to participate in these memorable events held throughout northern Baja.

The first of the 2017 series begins with San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez at the local dock this week – May 19-20 – and continues monthly throughout the entire summer. The second will be held at San Luis Gonzaga, June 16-17 and based at Hotel Alfonsina’s, followed by Bahía de Los Ángeles, July 21-22 at the local launch ramp.

Then, the location moves west across the Baja Peninsula to Pacifica at Ensenada, Aug. 25-26 at API Sportfishing Docks before the fifth and Grand Finale, Sept. 22-23 at the Old Mill Hotel in San Quintín.

While most tournaments in Baja have a “cause,” Pesca la Baja simply celebrates sportfishing and the individual communities of anglers who share a common passion for the sport, of course merged with the challenge and rewards of winning.

“The Pesca La Baja Series has been a very fun set of tournaments. I have been fishing them since the beginning and they are well run in really nice locations,” Chris Wheaton, from Orange County, an IGFA Representative and World Record Holder, marveled recently.

The numbers of participants or spectators has grown every year as has the enthusiasm for the event. It manages to blend local and visiting anglers into a unique celebration of sportfishing in towns and villages throughout Baja Norte where “Pesca la Baja” thrives.

Total immersion comes in many shapes. Fishermen from outside Baja and beyond who I’ve spoken with over the years delight in the chance to share their passion for fishing with local anglers, in many cases creating lasting bonds of friendship during these two-day events that have allowed an introduction to Baja’s rich family and fishing culture. Of course, under normal circumstances, this is often something that can only be accomplished after years of residing or traveling and exploring the rugged coast of Baja.

This weekend’s event at San Felipe, only 124 miles below the border, is a great opportunity to view one of the tournaments without driving too far. Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in these memorable events held throughout northern Baja. You won’t be disappointed. Often it takes a long time “to know what you don’t know” but in this case you can find out in only a couple of days.

Rules, schedules, places of registration of participants, meeting of captains, time of departure and arrival of boats, weighing of species and awards of the tournaments, are established by local conditions and facilities available.

The rules are straightforward with the competition divided into two categories of heaviest fish:

Surface: Corvina, yellowtail, dorado, sierra, billfish, yellowfin tuna and albacore.

Bottom: All species excluding rays and sharks.

Entry fees range from $700 MXN pesos for adults to $150 MXN pesos for children under 12. US ($38-$8)

Cash Prizes range from around $25,000 MXN pesos to $3,000 MXN pesos for heaviest fish, either surface or bottom. US ($1,350 - $55)

Award for the champion and accumulated best scores of all the series:

Grand Prize: Suzuki outboard motor, 115 hp, plus $30,000 MXN pesos in cash accumulating a total of $ 260,000 MXN pesos in prizes. US ($1,386)

2nd Place: $50,000 MXN pesos in cash plus registration for the Bisbee's Offshore Tournament in Cabo San Lucas. US ($2,666)

3rd Place: $30,000 MXN pesos in cash. US ($1,600)

Grady Istre's Blog

Male or female
About this time of year, hunters begin thinking about purchasing a new puppy for next season. One question I get a lot is this: which sex makes a better hunting dog, male and female? Personally, I like quality and I don't care what sex the quality comes in. But if your personality is such that you cannot see yourself owning anything but a particular sex, don't be foolish— get that specific sex. It’s doubtful that you will be happy with anything else.

So, the question still remains: which sex make the better hunting dog, especially for the average hunter? As you might imagine, there are a bunch of different options on this often controversial subject. I think I've heard most of the old wives tales on the subject, such as, when it comes to finding difficult cripples that have fallen in the muck and mire, the females seem to come up with the bird, whereas, the males’ attitude seems to be, “Oh hell that one is got away, I’ll get the next one.” There are different opinions on this of course, but I agree. Maybe it’s because of the motherly instincts to feed their young which makes females seem to hunt more tenaciously for difficult, downed birds. Also, because the basic nature of the female is often more submissive than the male, I really feel that they make better hunting dogs for the average guy.

Females are not necessarily easier to train, but once trained they are much easier to control than the males of equal talent. That's my opinion after over a half century of observing both sexes in the field. However, here's one rule I have learned to follow while training the girls: don't ever be unfair in your training practices. If you do, they can get back at you at an inopportune moment down the road.

Here’s a memorable example: some years ago, at a National Retriever competition, I watched in disbelief as a female Labrador ate a bird in the sixth series. Having trained with the owner many times, I knew how unfair she could be in the training of this wonderful talented female. She would nag and pick at the smallest details and repeat drills endlessly even when the dog performed perfectly. This particular National test was a triple retrieve that was giving many of the contestants a variety of problems in their attempt to come up with the birds.

After just hammering the difficult test, this dog stopped 15 feet from the handler with the last pheasant and proceeded to rip it apart in front of the judges the gallery and her owner — especially her owner. She sent a memorable message: don't be unfair to a female dog.

Here at Reibar, both sexes go through the same training regimen while learning their hunting skills. However, it's not just the learning of skills that makes the females more favorable in the eyes of hunters: they know how to make you fall in love with them a whole bunch faster and better then the males.

So, which sex dog do I personally like to hunt over? Given two dogs of the same ability, I lean towards the females, even though I have only had males for the past 40 years. My only reason is this: male dogs bring in the stud fees.

No matter which sex you choose, it's doubtful you'll make a mistake if you make sure to get a quality dog.

Good hunting!

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Grady's column appears in WON every other week and he can be reached at

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