“Best SoCal bluefin fishing ever” is a pretty big title to slap onto any given week and that’s why I thought long and hard before making the claim for the fist time in November of last year. As good as the fishing has been recently, I decided to go back to that column and see how this week’s action stacked up. While the counts were similar, the size of the fish being caught told the bigger story.
After doing some lose research on bluefin tuna growth rates, I was able to find that fish in the 6 to 7 year old range, which I’m guessing these fish are based on length, grow on average 15% in a year. So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that the 200-pound class fish (which seem to be the most prevalent) are likely the same 150-170-pound class fish that were the most prevalent a little less than a year ago. If this is the case, it’s likely that these fish will still be around come November and might potentially bite better than they are right now, which so far is the best they ever have.
Back in November, Captain Taro Takeuchi, owner/operator of the Liberty out of Fisherman’s Landing described the bite as saying, “It’s like Hurricane Bank in our Backyard”. My favorite from this year is my friend Captain Brandon Hayward of Bight Sportfishing referring Clemente as “San Clarion Island”. Whatever you call it, all it takes is a glance at this photo of 29 fish over 200 caught on a five day trip aboard the Vagabond to realize that we are living in unprecedented times.
It’s not just the long range fleet that’s catching fish either. The photo at the top of this column comes from the Thunderbird out of Davey’s Locker who reported in from a two-day trip this morning after calling it quits at 9:00 a.m. on the second day due to being out of room. The boat tallied 31 bluefin with 12 of them coming in between 200 and 270-pounds.
As you can tell by this week’s Navionics Chart, the east end backside of San Clemente Island remains the big bluefin hot spot. The bad news for private boaters is that the area has the crowds to match, so if you’re planning a trip out that way this weekend you should prepare for frustration. For the gang bang adverse among you, I recommend looking around on your own instead.
I fished San Clemente Island on Sunday morning and found foamers of bluefin along the 500 fathom curve on the backside west end of the island. These fish were mixed with smaller yellowfin and were difficult to get on due to it being rough enough that we had trouble getting to the fish before they went back down. With better weather these fish would have been catchable. I mention the 500 fathom curve because that is the exact same depth we found the fish off Catalina the week before. Are they always at that depth? No, but paying attention to the topography (even if it’s really deep) of where you see fish can help you figure out where other fish might be.
There really isn’t a ton of stuff happening other than the big bluefin bite right now so I’m going to run through it quick. There are yellows biting at Santa Cruz, Catalina and San Clemente Islands. I had a friend make the mistake of running to Santa Barbara Island this week and he reported it being its usual miserable dirt clod self. The fishing along the coast is on the slow side other than bass and rockfish and some yellows down in San Diego. There are dorado and small yellowfin scattered around our local banks but it’s been inconsistent. The yellows and small bluefin are still biting at the Coronado Islands and the sea lions are still a problem. There are probably yellows and tuna still biting at Cortes and Tanner but the boats aren’t willing to drive past the 200-pounders to go and find smaller fish right now.
Down south the fish are biting offshore but the skipjack are both larger and more prevalent than the yellowfin for the most part. There are some bigger yellowfin in the mix but you need to be lucky to find them and boats that are finding the right paddies are doing a number on the quality dorado. Finally, there were a few more bigeye tuna caught this week and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll continue to filter in for a strong fall bite.
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