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Merit McCrea – WHEELHOUSE SCOOP

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Fish science


Secrets of the San Diego scene for first-timers
We’re now into the San Diego offshore season primetime. The first of the yellowfin tuna are now joining forces with those wily bluefin tuna, coming into 1-day range. Yellowtail are full bore biting at the Coronado Islands. And San Diego landing’s full fleets, including the seasonal southern and northern mi­grants are there now.

You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it. Yet some of you still have yet to do it. Perhaps your trepidation of the big-time dominates. Maybe you’ve heard something of passport and visa needs, but haven’t yet undertaken the effort to find out how to do it.


The first thing to know is there are 4 primary landings with fleets fishing these trans-border pelagics — big fish that pull line and require a gaff to land. The second thing to know is these operations handle all the complexity for you. All you have to do is make a resi and show up.


The only remaining wrinkle, is some trips require you to have a passport with you and the ticket price can include a few extra costs the landings forward to the Mexican government agencies on your behalf. But more on this later — with a nod to what it takes to do it all on your own, as a private boater.


First, there are two basic harbors in the San Diego area. One is Mission Bay. The other is San Diego Bay.


In Mission Bay is Seaforth Sportfishing, very near to Sea World. At this landing one of the primary attractions is its ample, easy free parking. In recent years Seaforth Sportfishing has transitioned from a mostly 1/2- to overnight fishing venue, to now include open party offerings out to 2.5 dayers commonly, plus one can charter 3.5 dayers at least.


It’s ever so slightly farther from Mexican waters than the San Diego Bay landings are, so the shortest trip south of the border offered is an extended 3/4-day.


Then, in the very northernmost bow of San Diego Bay, along Scott Street in San Diego are thee more landings, all next door to one another, sharing a common parking area. From west to east, they are H&M Landing, Point Loma Sport­fishing and Fisherman’s Land­ing. During prime time this lot can be a tight fit at certain times of day.


Associated with H&M is Lee Palm Sportfishers, which operates the long ranger, Red Rooster III.


All three landings have a long range fleet of larger vessels that offer open party openings on sponsored trips, from summertime 1.5 to 5.5 dayers to wintertime 8- to 21-day drips. More usual open party offerings are 1/2- and 3/4-day trips and overnight to 3.5-day open party trips.


Here the advantages of car pooling are a bit greater than at Seaforth. First, it cuts down on the number of vehicles needing parking, an $8/day cost. Secondly, one person can be dropped off at the base of the dock with the gear while the driver deals with finding a parking spot. This task may require exiting the main lot and looking along nearby streets, or utilizing the overflow lot across the street between the N. Harbor Drive hotels. With three bodies one person can watch for a departing anglers in the lot and hold their parking spot as the other two deal with unloading gear and the truck.


The unique thing about these access points to open ocean fishing is their big game focus. Except for 1/2-day it’s all about yellowtail, dorado and tuna. There’s no “couple of hours in the morning for big game, then bottom biters” strategy. Any summer or fall season overnight or longer trip and many 3/4- and full-day trips it’s big game or bust!


In SoCal, only these 4 San Diego landings see big game opportunities solid enough to pull off a day in and day out, week in and week out, all day every day big game or nothing approach and make it work. The key is their access to Southern Bight and Northern Baja open ocean waters.


However, a lot of this fishing happens below the U.S. Mexican border. If you fish from these landings they’ll tell you which trips require you to bring your passport, and it’s only a small fraction of them. A little larger fraction require you to ante in for a Mexican fishing license.


Landing staff almost automatically assume all anglers need one. All you ever see is the cost they pay for it. Fishing Mexico from the landings is easy.


As a point of curiosity about the details you really don’t need to know if you fish from these landings, because they handle it all — like our waters, the territorial waters of Mexico extend 12 miles from land, including offshore rocks and islands. When you fish these waters you’re required to have a Mexican fishing license, a passport, and in lieu of a visa, a form called an FMM filled out, paid for and submitted.


On boats the FMM used has a full vessel manifest with each person’s passport info, and is submitted with a payment receipt from banjercito.com boat registration showing 500 pesos per person paid to Mexico, to INAMI, the responsible Mexican agency, which then emails back an authorization statement.


The landing staff also purchases a fishing license for each angler, the stack of which is kept by the captain aboard ship. If you have your own annual license for Mexico instead, you’ll need to submit this to the stack and get it back at the end of the trip.


Waters south of the border outside 12 miles yet within 200 miles are part of Mexico’s Exclusive Economic Zone, just as we reserve the same 200 miles off the U.S. coast. To fish here, you’ll only need a valid Mexican fishing license. A prime example of where the difference applies is between fishing Coronado Islands yellowtail, which requires the whole shebang, and fishing offshore Mexican waters, as the majority of San Diego party-boat trips do, which only requires the fishing license.


If you end up fishing in U.S. waters you’ll save the cost of the Mexican fishing license, but you can’t forget to bring your California license, required for you to possess your Federal waters catch while in state waters and land it in a California port. Bag limits are written as possession laws so California size and possession limits apply. Mexican limits apply for fish caught south of the border of course, and there is lots of nuance to know when working between the nations’ fishing laws.


As you might imagine, there’s a steep learning curve for private boaters fishing Mexican waters as the sport fleet does. PBers need to know and do all that stuff on their own, and in addition, deal with obtaining a Temporary Importation Permit for the boat.


Finally, all S.D. area anglers should be aware, U.S.-Mexico relations have steadily gotten better over the many years. California anglers are very fortunate to have the opportunity to fish both sides of the line, something the Sportfishing Association of California has worked long and hard to maintain.


As Californians fishing Mexico from a U.S. port, we’re guests. It’s helpful to keep in mind, all of California’s natural riches, along with Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona were Mexican before 1848 — Texas (Tejas) too actually. Today, on average, people of Mexican ancestry are 40 percent native American by blood. The “Mexican” people, culture and foods were those of all this land and sea long ago. Please be respectful and understanding.


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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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