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Private Boater’s Report: Big bluefin crashing off San Clemente Island

By Bob Vanian/976BITE.comPublished: Jul 23, 2019

Offshore fishing saw continuing change as there were two areas that produced bluefin tuna and there were also some yellowfin tuna, kelp paddy yellowtail, dorado and striped marlin in the offshore picture. Anglers had a choice of targeting jumbo-sized bluefin tuna to 250-plus pounds in the waters around San Clemente Island or targeting 25- to 100-plus-pound bluefin along with a mix of yellowfin tuna, yellowtail and an occasional dorado at the offshore banks below and outside of Ensenada.

The jumbo-size bluefin off San Clemente Island are found in an area ranging from 4 to 12 miles to the south of Pyramid Head at San Clemente Island and out in the region of the 267 Spot that is easterly from the Tanner Bank. These big bluefin are biting well on poppers, kite-trolled Yummee Flyers, and kite-fished flying fish which can be live, fresh dead or frozen.


Captain Maurice Smith of the private boat Dos Hermanos fished the jumbo bluefin on Friday and reported that Jon Epsten caught a 236.8 pounder that bit on a kite-fished flying fish. Smith said they were told that this bluefin is a club record for Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego.


Smith reported they also hooked two of the big bluefin on poppers cast to foaming fish, but lost them due to sliced-off line. Either the bluefin swallowed the poppers so deep it cut the braided line or the leader with its mouth or the freshly hooked bluefin dragged the line over the backs of other fish in the foamer. In each of their two popper hookups, 80- and 100-pound-test braided line was sliced clean as if cut by a razor. Smith said that others were having the same problem.


The other zone that produced bluefin action over the weekend was the region below the 295 Bank and around the 450 Spot in an area that was 70 to 75 miles, 168 to 178 degrees from Point Loma. There were good numbers of 25- to 100-plus-pound bluefin biting along with a sprinkling of yellowfin tuna, yellowtail and dorado. The bite was better during the week.


Private boater Marcus Hale of the Cabrilla fished the area below and inside of the 295 Bank on Saturday, saying they hooked and lost 3 of the 100-pound class bluefin by noon. One of them was hooked on a trolled Rapala, another on a trolled cedar plug and the third on a sardine.


The sardine fish, by Hale, bit 25-pound-test line and was lost in heartbreaking fashion after a long battle when the fish was at color.


There has been some marlin activity and one marlin caught midweek by the boat Novia Loca that was slow trolling a sardine for yellowtail by the tuna pens located inside South Island at the Coronados. Captain Maurice Smith of the Dos Hermanos passed along the report and said the fish was caught on 40-pound line after a 1-hour battle after tangling with mooring buoys.


There have been occasional marlin sightings around San Clemente Island and there was a report of a marlin caught and released around Catalina late last week. On Monday morning a tailer was reported by a whale watch boat about 5 miles outside of Mission Bay.


Yellowtail fishing around the Coronado Islands was very good early in the week but tailed off. The fish have been in the 10- to 16-pound range and were biting well on surface iron, yo-yo iron, flylined sardines, slow trolled sardines and trolled Rapalas.


Private boater Pat McDonell of Western Outdoor News and the private boat Robalo fished a solo trip to the Coronado Islands on Wednesday and reported catching his limit of 5 yellowtail plus 2 bonito. He said his yellowtail were around 12 pounds each and the bonito were both 8-pound fish.


McDonell went to the Islands without any live bait and caught his yellowtail on surface iron. With a sloppy wind out of the southeast, McDonell said the best area for the yellowtail was to the northeast of the tuna pens.


Other boaters caught yellowtail using slow trolled sardines, trolled Rapalas, flylined sardines, surface iron and yo-yo iron. Most boats were drifting or slow trolling.


Private boater Mike Seymour of the Sea Section fished the Coronado Islands on Friday. He was fishing with his friend Dave Derianieh and reported they caught their limits of yellowtail and several nice calico bass.


The best bite in the early morning was near the tuna pens inside South Island and in the late morning he said the best bite shifted to the South Kelp Ridge. In the afternoon they caught their 2 biggest yellowtail of the day while fishing the outer Middle Grounds, where they also caught their calicos. Their yellowtail ranged in size from 8 to 15 pounds.


Pat McDonell fished the Coronado Islands again on Sunday with his friend Cy Bodden aboard Bodden’s private boat Josephine. McDonell said it was a totally different day of fishing and the water had dropped to 64 degrees below the Middle Grounds. It was 67 degrees at the Middle Grounds and around North Island. On Sunday they caught just one yellowtail and he saw very little caught by the boats around them.


Fishing along the San Diego County coast remains good for a mix of calico bass, sand bass, reds, rockfish, sculpin and whitefish along with an occasional flurry of barracuda and an occasional bonus yellowtail, halibut or lingcod.


The best zone for barracuda remains along the edges of the Point Loma Kelp Beds and the best zones for yellowtail have been the Point Loma and La Jolla Kelp Beds. There has also been good action for calico bass at many kelp beds up and down the coast such as Point Loma, La Jolla, the kelp bed areas between Solana Beach and Carlsbad and at kelp bed areas above Oceanside Harbor such as the Barn Kelp, Yellowtail Kelp, Box Canyon Kelp and San Onofre Kelp.


As an example of how good the calico bass fishing can be, Captain Joe Cacciola of the Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing and the Oceanside Sea Center reported that the calico bass are often biting wide open. He said they are literally catching and mostly releasing hundreds of calicos most every day. Cacciola said on a recent family charter by AA Worms and Optimum Baits they caught and released over 500 calico bass and that a young girl caught and released over 50!


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