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Private Boater's Report

Private Boater’s Report: Plenty of tuna offshore but bite can be picky

BY BOB VANIAN/ Published: Sep 17, 2019

Big picture, tuna fishing is still overall solid, but some things are changing with regard to what areas are producing. Heading into the weekend, there was good fishing for a mix of bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna for boats fishing some of the offshore banks below and outside of the Coronado Islands such as the 302 Spot and 425 Bank. That changed over the weekend with the bite fading at some spots within 30 miles of Point Loma. The best bite areas were further south each day with the Upper Hidden Bank being a productive zone on Saturday and the 385 Spot outside of Ensenada tops on Sunday.

BIG 5 SPORTING GOODS fishing buyer Mikol Boland with a slug island yellow caught aboard the Options. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

The yellowfin have been running from 8 to 30 pounds and the bluefin in these areas have been running from 20 to 80 pounds. Stops have been originating from stopping on meter marks, spots of breaking fish, kelp paddies, skipjack jig strikes and the occasional yellowfin or bluefin trolling strike. The best stops turn into long drifts where the fish stay with the boat and anglers pick away at the tuna with sardines.

The jumbo bluefin continue to bite best out by San Clemente Island with most being caught off the back side of the island in the 150- to 300-plus-pound range. Productive areas have been 3 to 8 miles to the southeast of Pyramid Head, the area a short way outside of Desperation Reef and around the 81 Fathom Spot, the 86 Fathom Spot and the 57 Fathom Spot.

Drifted kite and helium balloons rigged with flying fish have been effective for the big bluefin. Live, fresh-dead and frozen flying fish have also been working. During the past week, there have been some private boaters that caught as many as 5 or 6 of the big bluefin in a single day of fishing.

There have also been some showings of 40- to 120-pound bluefin in areas such as the 9 Mile Bank, 8 to 15 miles off La Jolla, the 289 Spot, 181 Spot and 182 Spot, but they tend to be up and down quickly and difficult to get to bite. The best bet for the bluefin in these areas has been casting poppers on spots of breaking fish before they sound.

The Balboa Angling Club held their Masters Billfish Tournament and had 41 boats participate. There were striped marlin and swordfish biting and it was an epic event with regard to swordfish fishing! These are unofficial totals for the two days of fishing with what I counted in listening to tournament control: 12 swordfish hook-ups resulting in six boated swordfish. On the striped marlin front, my unofficial tally was 14 marlin hookups with 7 resulting in fish caught and released.

The boat Kea Kai boated 4 swordfish during the tournament with angler Charlie Albright landing 3 of them. He limited out on swordfish on Friday with a 137-pound swordie followed by a 219 only to score a third on Saturday! Sam Long was the angler who caught the fourth sword aboard the Kea Kai on Saturday. I am thinking one would have to go back to the days of the legendary Ted Naftzger fishing aboard the Hustler to find the last time someone caught a 2-fish limit of swordfish in California waters!

The tournament saw one swordfish hooked on a live bait presented to a fish that was spotted on the surface, and the rest of the action was via the deep-drop method. The best fishing for marlin and swordfish during the tournament was found by the Yellow Banks area off the back side of Santa Cruz Island. The Catalina region also produced some scattered action for boats fishing off the Slide, the region of the 14 Mile Bank, the region of the oil rigs and in an area 3 to 5 miles south of Point Fermin.

FIRST TUNA FOR young Aiden Elias with this 40-pound bluefin caught this past weekend aboard the Hi-Count with his father Ray.

The Coronado Islands have not seen much fishing pressure lately due to the good tuna fishing in nearby offshore waters, but there was some news that came from the Coronados on Saturday. A Skipper reported the two aboard caught their limits of 12- to 16-pound yellowtail along the lee side of South Island. The second report from the Coronados was another private boater report about some nice sized calico bass that were biting around some of the boiler rocks at North Island. The bottom fishing is usually good around the Coronados, and top areas have been at the South Kelp Ridge while fishing in 25 to 40 fathoms of water and at the hard bottom areas to the north, the northwest and the northeast of North Island while fishing in 20 to 45 fathoms of water.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast continues to be good for a mix of sand bass, calico bass, small bonito, reds, rockfish, whitefish and sculpin and there has also been a chance at catching a bonus lingcod, halibut or yellowtail.

There has been a bit of improvement in yellowtail activity with the upper end of La Jolla producing an occasional yellow and a few spots of breezing fish being found during the early morning hours in the Imperial Beach area a short way above the Mexico border.

Calico bass continue to provide most of the surface action in kelp bed areas up and down much of the San Diego coast. Some of the more productive areas for calicos have been the Point Loma Kelp Beds, the kelp at the upper end of La Jolla, the kelp bed areas between Solana Beach and South Carlsbad, the Barn Kelp, Yellowtail Kelp and the kelp off Box Canyon.

Hard bottom and structure spots have also been producing some bass and sculpin with productive places being the Imperial Beach Pipeline, hard bottom spots between the Imperial Beach Pipeline and the Mexico border, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Green Tank, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside and Box Canyon.

Rockfish are a significant part of the coastal fishing picture with recent reports of good rockfish catches coming from hard bottom areas around the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Green Tank at Point Loma, the upper end of La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Del Mar and Box Canyon.

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