Private Boater's Report

Private Boater's Report: Yellows keep rods bent while bluefin sputter

BY BOB VANIAN/976Bite.comPublished: May 07, 2019

Recent bluefin tuna fishing is a prime example of the up and down nature of the fishery as there was solid overall early part of the week, but it abruptly turned hit or miss over the weekend. What improved in dramatic fashion over this same time period was the yellowtail fishing at the Coronado Islands which upgraded to near-limit to limit fishing over the weekend.

The bluefin bite was looking good heading into the weekend with fish ranging in size from 25 to 275 pounds biting in good numbers. The weekend saw the bite drop off with just fair numbers of bluefin biting to go with some kelp-paddy yellowtail.

Tom Golding of the Last Buck got after them on Saturday, and his report showed nada in the way of bluefin activity, but they did manage to find a kelp that produced three 10-pound yellowtail. He said they fished banks below and outside of the Coronado Islands and areas including San Salvador Knoll, 390 Bank, Upper Hidden Bank and 371 Bank. They found their productive paddy a short way outside of the Upper Hidden Bank at 40 miles, 195 degrees from Point Loma.

WON editor Paul Lebowitz set out on a bluefin mission with Al Silebi of San Diego aboard Silebi’s Parker 2120 SC Diamond Dogs on Saturday. They found the fleet on the 390 where the action had been hot earlier in the week, but unfortunately nothing was happening, no breezers or birds. The fleet scattered in the late morning, looking for anything that would bite. Silebi scouted south towards the Upper Hidden Bank to the 371 and back west towards the San Salvador Knoll, still seeing no signs of life. They checked a number of paddies on the way, but none were holding.

Productive areas for bluefin have been the Upper Hidden Bank, the 390 Bank, the trench inside of the Butterfly Bank, the San Salvador Knoll, the 371 Bank, the 302 Spot, the 224 Spot and the 425 Bank. The bluefin schools have been located by finding sonar marks, and spots of breaking fish. Some of the best bluefin stops have come off sonar marks that are found in the dark.

Once located, bluefin have been biting on fly-lined sardines, kite-fished sardines and Flat-Fall jigs. It’s smart to have live bait outfits with fluorocarbon leaders ranging from 30- to 100-pound test to be able to adjust your tackle selection based on how aggressive the fish are and how big the fish happen to be in the school of fish you are working.

As an example of how good the bluefin fishing was when the fish were up and biting well at mid-week, the American Angler out of Point Loma Sport­fishing had a 1.5-day trip with a fish count of 35 bluefin tuna and 37 yellowtail. The size of the bluefin in their catch was very impressive with 32 bluefin in the 60- to 80-pound range, 3 in the 140-pound class and biggies of 233 and 275 pounds.

The yellowtail fishing at the Coronado Islands was on the scratchy side of things heading into the weekend, but the bite started to pick up late in the day on Friday and that good fishing that was found on Friday afternoon carried over into the weekend. On Saturday evening, I talked with Captain Steve Peterson of the Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing who reported excellent yellowtail fishing with 23 anglers on a full-day trip catching limits of yellowtail which was 115 yellows, 10 bonito, 8 rockfish, 2 lingcod and 2 calico bass.

Peterson said most of their yellowtail were in the 8- to 15-pound range with a few larger fish to 18 pounds in the mix. The yellows were located via sonar marks, and they were biting on sardines either fly-lined or on a dropper-loop, yo-yo iron, surface iron and stick baits.

Productive yellowtail areas over the weekend were North Island, the Middle Grounds and the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island. The rockfish action has also been good around the Coronado Islands, and some of the better zones have been at hard-bottom areas to the north and northwest of North Island in 35 to 50 fathoms. Another productive zone has been the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in 25 to 40 fathoms.

The fishing along the San Diego County coast has been good for a mix of bass, reds, rockfish, sculpin and whitefish, but the surface fishing for yellowtail and bonito has been mostly scratchy. The area that has provided the best chance at some surface fishing action has been at the upper end of La Jolla where there are occasional showings of yellowtail that provide some action.

The yellowtail activity at La Jolla looked to be picking up late in the week when the New Seaforth had an afternoon half-day trip bag 6 of the 20- to 25-pound forkies. The yellowtail bite did not follow through very well over the weekend as quite a few private boaters worked the La Jolla area with just an occasional mossback reported.

Productive rockfish areas off the San Diego County coast include the International Reef, the Imperial Beach Pipeline, hard bottom areas in the region of the Whistler Buoy at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank, The 270 to the west of Mission Bay, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia, South Carlsbad and Box Canyon.

Hard bottom and structure areas have been best for the bass and sculpin with productive areas being the Imperial Beach Pipeline, the hard bottom to the north and northwest of Buoy #3 at Point Loma, the Point Loma Pipeline, the Green Tank, the Variety Kelp area below the MLPA closure area at the lower end of La Jolla, the upper end of La Jolla, Del Mar, the Anderson and Buccaneer Pipelines, and the artificial reefs outside of Oceanside. The one exception to the hard-bottom fishing for bass is there have been some calicos biting during the afternoon hours at the kelp bed areas of La Jolla.

Ron Ballanti and his buddy, Jim Hendricks, fished Catalina aboard Hendricks’ boat, Split Decision. After picking up squid from the Carnage in front of Avalon, they headed to the back side of the island and picked up 5 short white seabass and 8 yellowtail for three anglers. Conditions are definitely round­ing out perfectly for the upcoming WON Catalina Jackpot coming up on May 24. For info on that, find the tourney at under the EVENTS tab.

The front side of San Clemente Island continues to produce some action on yellowtail and bonito. Skippers have been working along the front side of the island between Purse Seine Rock and Gold Bluff and finding yellowtail action by stopping on sonar marks, meter marks and the occasional spot of breaking fish. There has also been some action found while sitting on the anchor and chumming fish to the boat. The yellowtail have been biting on sardines, surface iron and yo-yo iron and the bonito have bit best on sardines.

There was also some yellowtail action at Catalina over the weekend. On Saturday, there were a couple of private boaters who reported catching a few while slow-trolling sardines around meter marks being found in the Frog Rock area above Avalon.

KEVIN HESTER OF  with a 14-pound flattie hooked over the weekend at Catalina and bagged with the help of a Promar XXL landing net.

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