Private Boater's Report

Private Boater’s Report: Bluefin not ready to call it a year

BY BOB VANIAN/976Bite.comPublished: Nov 21, 2017

60 Mile Bank blows up

It’s Thanksgiving week, and the Southern California offshore fishing season marches on in fine fashion with bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and yellow­tail still around and biting. This is unseasonably good fishing on quality fish!

Bluefin tuna continue to grab the spotlight with the 60 Mile Bank, producing action on bigger bluefin that have been running from 110- to 200-plus pounds, with most in the 120- to 160-pound range. There are also mixed-size bluefin from 20- to 200-plus pounds holding in the area above the Butterfly Bank, but most of them that have actually been biting there have been the 20- to 30-pound fish. The place to go to best target the jumbo bluefin is the 60 Mile Bank.

The numbers of yellowfin tuna have been slipping of late, with some excellent fishing during the early and middle part of the past week turning to more hit-or-miss action over the weekend. The yellowfin have been running from 15 to 60 pounds and have been biting best in the area of the Butterfly Bank. There have also been some biting outside of the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy, and on Sunday, there were some biters with porpoise schools off the East End of Catalina.

Most of the yellowtail have been the 4- to 8-pound fish, and they have been biting from kelp paddies found in the region of the 43 Fathom Spot, the Butterfly Bank and the 302.

The jumbo bluefin have been biting at the upper high spot at the 60 Mile Bank and boats have been anchoring or drifting with sardines, mackerel and Flat-Fall jigs. Some of the better sportboat counts have gone up to the 40-plus fish per boat range on the 120- to 160-pound bluefin.

Captain Billy of the E Fish N Sea fished the 60 Mile Bank on Sunday and caught a 135-pound bluefin tuna. He said he was drifting with weighted live bait, flylined live bait and two live baits fished from a “double trouble” kite rig when the big bluefin bit one of the kite baits. The water temperature at the 60 Mile Bank was 65 degrees and Sunday’s weather was rough and sloppy.

Ben Babbitt of the Gato Gordo fished the 43 Fathom Spot, the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy and the Butterfly Bank regions on Saturday and reported catching 3 yellowfin tuna and a bunch of yellowtail. He found the yellowtail under kelp paddies located 4 to 5 miles west of the 43. Babbitt also saw spots of breaking tuna in that same zone but they didn’t bite. He caught 3 yellowfin out of 5 hook-ups while fishing porpoise up above the western wing of the Butterfly. The yellowfin were 15- to 25-pound fish and were biting 54 miles, 245 degrees from Point Loma.

Marcus Hale of the Old Blue reported after fishing aboard the private boat Grander on Saturday. He said they started the day in the area outside of the San Clemente Basin Weather Buoy, where they saw two spots of breaking fish which turned out to be jumbo bluefin. He said they were impressive showings, but that they were all show and no go and would not bite. These fish were seen while fishing an area that was 40 miles 244 degrees from Point Loma.

Hale said they ended up catching 4 good-sized yellowfin tuna to 40 pounds. They came from a kelp paddy 2 miles inside of the northern wing of the Butterfly Bank, which is at 43 miles, 234 degrees from Point Loma. The yellowfin came up boiling everywhere when they first stopped on the paddy, and everyone aboard caught a nice one. The water temperature was at 66 degrees where they found the bluefin schools and where they caught the 4 yellowfin.

Private boater Alex Deridder of the Fish Finder fished Friday and caught 8 yellowfin in the 15- to 20-pound class. Deridder worked all around the Butterfly Bank and caught all 8 from a spot of fish he found under working birds at the eastern wing of the Butterfly. He slid in on the spot of working fish, and they responded well to their sardines. They were fishing 48 miles, 225 degrees from Point Loma.

Very few boats have been out looking for marlin, but it sounds like there might still be a chance at catching one off East End of Catalina.

The Coronado Islands are still producing surface bonito and yellowtail. In addition, there is still a chance at scratching out a bluefin tuna. The Rockpile has been the best area for bonito and yellowtail. Bonito have also biting well, and there has been a chance at yellowtail at quite a few other spots around the Islands such as the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, the weather side of South Island, the Lighthouse at the south tip of South Island, the 5 Minute Kelp and the South Kelp. The best zone for a chance at a bluefin has been around the south end of South Island such as the Lighthouse, the South Kelp and the 5 Minute Kelp.

The yellowtail have been mixed-size fish in the 5- to 20-pound range, the bonito have been 4- to 10-pound fish, and the bluefin tuna have been 18 to 30 pounds. Trolling strikes on feathers and Rapalas have been a good way to locate bonito and sometimes yellowtail with most of the yellowtail activity coming from drifting on sonar marks and meter marks. Slow trolling with sardines is also a good way to find action on bonito, yellowtail and tuna.

The fishing along the San Diego area coast is producing a mix of bonito, bass and rockfish along with an occasional yellowtail. An area for a decent chance at finding some bonito action in the Point Loma region has been the Imperial Beach Flats in 18 to 25 fathoms of water. There has also been some bonito activity outside of the stretch between the Point Loma Lighthouse and Point Loma College in the 20- to 40-fathom depths. The upper end of La Jolla is also a zone where bonito have been biting. These fish have been found in an area ranging from the outside edges of the kelp beds on up to the La Jolla Canyon. Occasional bonito activity is also reported outside of Carlsbad, Box Canyon and San Onofre. Trolling strikes on feathers and Rapalas have been a good way to locate bonito schools to fish with sardines and small chrome jigs.

There has been an occasional yellowtail biting incidental to fishing the bonito at the Imperial Beach Flats in the 18 to 25 fathom depths. There has also been an occasional yellowtail biting while fishing the edges of the kelp beds at the upper end of La Jolla.

The bonito have been running from 3 to 10 pounds and have been biting well on trolled feathers and Rapalas. They will sometimes bite well on sardines and small chrome jigs after getting a trolling strike from the bones.

Fair numbers of calico bass are still biting at some of the kelp bed areas up and down the San Diego County coast, but as the water cools, more and more boats are starting to fish hard bottom areas for rockfish instead.

TUNA FRENZY — Guide Gerry Mahieu and angler Matt Newman got into some hot and heavy tuna action this past week, roping non-stop yellowfin tuna and hooking into tackle-busting bluefin.

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