Privater Boater's Report

Private Boater’s Report: Biting bluefin show up closer to the beach

BY BOB VANIAN/976Bite.comPublished: May 14, 2019

Yellowtail keyed on small bait at Coronados

The past week of fishing was highlighted by bluefin tuna making an appearance offshore and yellowtail at the Coronado Islands, La Jolla, San Clemente Island and Catalina.

The fishing for bluefin tuna provided steady action during much of the week, and that continued over Mother’s Day weekend. The best areas were banks located below and outside of the Coronado Islands at places such as the Finger Bank, 475 Knuckle, Upper Hidden Bank, 390 Bank and 371 Bank. Early in the week, there was some bluefin activity reported out at the weather buoy area between the 43 Fathom Spot and the Butterfly Bank, and on the Mother’s Day weekend, there was some activity reported at the 9 Mile Bank.

Finding a bluefin bait stop was hit or miss, but there were some long bait stops to be had as well as a few near-limit to limit catches reported aboard the sportboats. The bluefin being caught have been ranging from 25- to 200-plus-pounds with most in the 50- to 80-pound class.

The bluefin schools have been located on sonar marks, meter marks and spots of breaking, breezing or puddling fish. Some of the best bluefin stops have been in the dark.

Once located, bluefin have been biting fly-lined sardines, kite-fished baits and Flat-Fall jigs. If you have room for all the tackle, it is smart to carry live bait outfits with fluorocarbon leaders ranging from 30- to 100-pound-test depending on what type of bite you’re dealing with.

The yellowtail fishing at the Coronado Islands was scratchy during much of the week with few boats getting out there. The weekend saw some more boats out looking around and on Saturday, some nice-sized schools of yellows were found in the region of the tuna pens inside of South Island as well as in the Flats area into the east. On Sunday, there were schools of yellowtail found in the same region around the pens as well as in an area located about a mile inside of the Middle Grounds.

The yellows were behaving in a favorable pattern for private boaters as there were spots of breaking and breezing fish up on the surface. The yellows bit pretty well on Saturday, but it fell off a bit on Sunday when they were reported to be keyed in on tiny baitfish. A private boater who fished on Sunday said they casted bait and iron to many spots of breezing and breaking yellowtail that refused to bite their sardines, mackerel and iron. They did manage to catch one yellowtail around the Middle Grounds on a trolled X-Rap Rapala.

Most of the yellowtail have been in the 8- to 15-pound range with a few larger fish to 20 pounds in the mix. They’ve have been biting on fly-lined sardines, dropper-loop sardines, yo-yo and surface iron, stick baits and trolled Rapalas.

Aside from the region of the tuna pens and the area inside of the Middle Grounds, other productive yellowtail areas have been the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, the lighthouse at the south tip of South Island and the South Kelp Ridge. Fishing kelp bed areas such as the South Kelp and 5 Minute Kelp has produced some calico bass and barracuda action and the boiler rocks around the Middle Grounds and the north end of South Island have been productive for calico bass.

The rockfish fishing 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 of water. Another productive zone has been the South Kelp Ridge below South Island in 25 to 40 fathoms of water.

The San Diego County coast has been highlighted by im­proved yellowtail fishing at the upper end of La Jolla. Most of the rest of the coastal fishing has been good for a mix of bass, reds, rockfish, sculpin and whitefish along with an occasional bonus halibut or lingcod.

The yellowtail activity at La Jolla has been good at times on better fish that have been running from 12 to 35 pounds. The yellows have been biting some during the morning hours, but the afternoons have been best. Over the Mother’s Day weekend, there were some private boaters who reported having as many as 5 large yellowtail aboard. On Sunday, the New Seaforth had 35 anglers on an afternoon half-day trip catching 13 yellowtail and 1 sculpin.

The coastal yellowtail action has come in a variety of ways including fishing on anchor, drifting, slow-trolling live baits, stopping on meter marks, sonar marks and spots of working birds. One private boater who was fishing on Saturday reported having caught a 25-pound forkie on a trolled X-Rap Rapala and said he lost another large one at the boat that ate the same bait. The sardines and mackerel have been effective when slow-trolled, fly-lined or on a dropper loop.

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 including 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 that there have been some calico bass biting during the afternoon hours at the kelp bed areas of La Jolla.

San Clemente Island has been producing a good mixed bag of yellowtail and assorted bottom fish to go with a few calico bass and bonito. The best areas for the yellowtail have been off the back side of the western end of the Island at the West Cove and Runway areas and the front side of the Island between White Rock and Gold Bluff. Yellowtail have been found while sitting on the anchor and also found by stopping on sonar marks, meter marks and the occasional spot of breaking fish, and they have been biting on sardines, surface and yo-yo iron, and the bonito have bit best on sardines.

Catalina Island has also been producing good numbers of yellowtail and lots of assorted bottom fish and calico bass, barracuda and bonito. Most of the yellowtail action has come while sitting on the anchor, and private boaters have also found some yellows on slow-trolled sardines or mackerel. Pro­ductive areas have been off the V’s, off Little Harbor, outside of Indian Rock and while fishing between the Blue Cavern State Marine Conservation Area and the Long Point State Marine Reserve.

Conditions are setting up nicely for the upcoming Catalina Jackpot held June 7-9 out of Two Harbors. For more info on prizes, rules and registration, visit and find it under the EVENTS tab.

BAD INFLUENCE BISCUIT — Lindsay McKeever caught her first-ever seabass while fishing the East End of Catalina. The Island is biting, a good omen for the WON Yamaha Catalina Island Jackpot. Sign up at by May 24 to qualify for the early entry drawing.

* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Luna Sea Sports Ad
Advertise with Western Outdoor News