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CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Merit McCrea – WHEELHOUSE SCOOP

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Cods from isolated high spots okay?
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Wintertime Options


Winter bass
Christmas has now come and gone and as this report is being written, the 2018 fishing season is just about here. There were not many boats out looking for bluefin over the days surrounding Christmas but some boats have gone back out to the 60 Mile Bank area the past couple of days to look for bluefin. Prior to Christmas there were near-limit to limit numbers of bluefin being caught at the 60 Mile Bank’s upper high spot, but what boats have found after Christmas is that there are still some bluefin tuna around and biting but that the bluefin bite has turned scratchy.

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WILL THIS BE a big calico winter for sportboat anglers? WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS


When boats leave the 60 Mile Bank upper high spot area to do some looking around, they have been finding some kelp paddies in the region of the 60 Mile Bank and Butterfly Bank that have good numbers of yellowtail biting. The good thing about the bluefin situation is that there are still some bluefin around and biting. As long as bluefin remain in the area, there is a chance that better numbers of fish will once again move back up onto the 60 Mile Bank’s upper high spot and start biting better.


The post-Christmas fishing out at the 60 Mile Bank has seen the New Lo-An out of Point Loma Sportfishing have an overnight trip with 32 anglers catch 61 yellowtail. The next day’s fishing saw the New Lo-An have 26 anglers catch 1 bluefin tuna and 39 yellowtail.


The Chief out of H&M Landing had an overnight trip with 22 anglers catch 2 bluefin tuna and 130 yellowtail. The next day’s fishing saw the Chief catch 5 bluefin tuna and 38 yellowtail.


Fisherman’s Landing had an afternoon report from the Condor that had 2 bluefin tuna and 168 yellowtail aboard and was still fishing. They also had the Pacific Queen report catching 1 bluefin tuna and 155 yellowtail.


Seaforth Sportfishing had a 1.5-day trip aboard the Aztec that had 21 anglers catch 3 bluefin tuna and 210 yellowtail. They also had an overnight trip on the Outer Limits with 19 anglers catch 95 yellowtail.


The best bet for bluefin tuna remains fishing the upper high spot at the 60 Mile Bank. Most of the bluefin have been in the 15- to 25-pound range. If you find a kelp paddy in the region of the 60 Mile Bank, Butterfly Bank, 302 Spot or outside of North Island, there is a chance at getting into a good yellowtail bite on what have mostly been the 6- to 10-pound fish. Another report from a private boater was of catching 2 of the 35- to 40-pound bluefin tuna while fishing between the 224 Spot and the Corner.


The bluefin have been biting best on sardines. Recent weeks have seen Flat Fall jigs also producing a few bluefin. Most of the bluefin have been caught while sitting on the anchor, while drifting or while slow trolling with live sardines. Most anglers are using live bait outfits with fluorocarbon leaders in the 20- to 25-pound range. Using small hooks relative to the size of the live bait has also been a good practice to help achieve enough stealth to draw strikes from the often wary bluefin tuna.


There has not been much to report in the way of yellowtail action around the Coronado Islands lately but there was a report of some breaking bluefin being seen around the tuna pens and also by a boat fishing about 2 miles south of South Island. There has been good bottom fishing around the Islands and at last report there was a chance at finding a few bonito and maybe a yellowtail biting while fishing along the weather side of North Island or at the Middle Grounds. Productive rockfish zones have been at the lower end of the 9 Mile Bank and at hard bottom areas to the north and the northwest of North Island.


There have been good numbers of yellowtail biting outside of Point Loma on fish that are mostly in the 6- to 10-pound range. There have also been a few bonito and skipjack mixed in with the yellowtail. It has been a morning bite on the yellowtail with the afternoon hours usually seeing the yellows disappear. The yellowtail are being found while fishing the region of the Whistler Buoy while working 1 to 2 miles from the Whistler Buoy in an area ranging from south up to northwest of the Whistler Buoy.


The fish are being located in a variety of ways with meter marks, sonar marks, spots of working birds, spots of breaking fish and trolling strikes on Rapalas all being good ways to locate a school of yellowtail. Once yellowtail are located, anglers have been catching yellows by drifting with sardines or mackerel, slow trolling with sardines or mackerel and by using surface iron or yo-yo iron.


The fish counts from Wednesday morning, Dec. 27, 2017 start with Seaforth Sportfishing that had a morning half-day trip on the Sea Watch with 41 anglers catch 85 yellowtail. The morning half-day trip on the Daily Double out of Point Loma Sportfishing had 35 anglers catch 27 rockfish, 2 halibut, 1 lingcod and 98 whitefish. Fisherman’s Landing had a morning half-day trip on the Dolphin with 74 anglers catch 76 yellowtail and 2 bonito. H&M Landing had a morning half day trip on the Premier with 63 anglers catch 37 yellowtail, 1 sheephead and 22 rockfish.


There has also been a chance at scratching out a yellowtail or a few bonito at La Jolla. The occasional yellowtail caught at La Jolla tends to be one of the larger 15- to 20-pound fish. The best zone for a chance at a La Jolla yellowtail has been while fishing outside of the upper end of La Jolla at the area of Northwest. Most of the action has come while fishing a sardine on a dropper loop rig that is fished near the bottom.


The remainder of the fishing along the San Diego County coast has been in a rockfish fishing mode with good numbers of rockfish biting for boats fishing hard bottom areas in the region of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Green Tank, Point Loma College, “the 270” out to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Leucadia and Box Canyon. Anglers need to be aware that the annual 2 month rockfish/groundfish closure in Southern California waters goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.


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Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California party boat 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: merit@wonews.com.


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