There’s been a lot of discussion on our message boards about offshore fishing this week and it seems like the comments fall into one of two categories. The first group are those who say the fishing sucks and are often the same ones who blame the purse seiners for the lack of catchable tuna within skiff range of the coast. To an extent they are correct. There has been a lack of 25-pound and under yellowfin in our local waters, but I don’t think its the purse seiners fault. More realistically is that the crazy weather and water conditions we’ve experienced the last couple years has messed up the normal seasonal flow of fish that come into our waters.
The second group of anglers are the ones who are embracing the altered reality that this season has been and have been engaging with fish of a lifetime every day for months. The photo above is an example of outside the box thinking. The big yellowfin at the top of this article was caught aboard the Thunderbird out of Davey’s Locker while trolling a Yummee Flyer from a kite at 9 knots on the way home from fishing yellowtail at San Clemente Island. Catching that fish gave Captain Jeff Markland the confidence to look around offshore a couple days later and resulted in limits of bluefin tuna and several jumbo yellowfin for his passengers. Though hit and miss, sometimes more miss than hit, the offshore fishing this year is nothing short of amazing.
So, if you’re one of those guys who thinks the fishing sucks this year, you might want to re-calibrate your expectations and try to fish outside of your normal offshore box.
These big yellowfin, which are mostly in the 40 to 75-pound class have been coming from the same banks that have been producing big bluefin for the last few months. I’m not sharing any secret intel when I say that the hot spot this month has been the 43. On any given day there will be fifty plus boats on the bank and while the fishing is not wide open, there are lots of fish to be caught. The Grande posted this screen shot of their fish finder from a recent trip that shows just how big these schools of big fish are.
What the popper was to May and June, the Yummee Flyer has been to July and August and the vast majority of big fish are being caught on that presentation. The good news for those not inclined to fly the kite is that the big yellowfin seem to be biting bait as well if you can get on a hungry school. That being said, if I were going to invest the time and effort to run to the 43 I’d bring a kite rig and spend most of the day using it.
Speaking of kites, it seems like the tuna they are catching are getting bigger and bigger by the week. My friends Ed Howerton and Dennis Burlason caught this 274-pound bluefin over the weekend and BD’s own Ali Hussainy weighed another 274-pound fish the same day. Either the scale at the Marlin Club is stuck or that’s quite a coincidence.
In the span of a couple months, it went from a 200-pounder being extremely rare to 240-pound fish being commonplace and fish to 275-pounds being caught. So, what’s next? Your guess is as good as mine but if these fish bite into the fall, we may see fish well in excess of 300-pounds being caught. The only historical precedent for fish this size in our waters was in 1988 through 1990, when our current state record fish of 240-pounds was caught. This was the same time that the commercial boats got into the big fish off Santa Rosa and San Nicholas Island and landed several hundred fish averaging 400-pounds, with the largest breaking the 1,000-pound mark.
Is there a chance we can see a repeat? Who knows.
In other news, the yellowtail bite continues at the islands. Catalina has been kicking out some better grade yellowtail for the 3/4-day boats fishing the island. I spoke with Captain Aaron Graham of the Native Sun out of 22nd Street Landing and he reported catching 41 big yellows on Wednesday’s trip for only 17 anglers. These fish are readily biting the surface iron and flylined baits.
San Clemente Island is also producing bigger yellowtail that are mixed with 15 to 20-pound bluefin tuna. While the tuna fishing isn’t wide open, we haven’t seen an on the anchor bluefin bite at San Clemente in years, so you might want to jump on the Thunderbird and check it out. Make sure and bring some light line and small hooks because these bluefin are notoriously line shy and it takes some serious flylining skills to get them to bite.
Further north, the Channel Island yellowtail bite continued this week with some boats catching the smaller fish while others got into the bruiser class models. The photo above shows some of the better grade fish that were caught aboard the Gentleman out of CISCO’s last week. In closing, I’d like to recommend to keep an eye out for the unusual regardless of where you fish this week.
I spoke with Captain Jimmy Decker on Tuesday and he told me that he was running back to Newport after dropping off his charter group at Avalon that afternoon when he spotted a couple terns looking a few miles off the island. Grabbing a bass rod and mega bait combo that his clients had been using to catch bonito, he fired off a cast and was immediately bit. The lopsided battle that ensued ended with him putting a 60-pound class bluefin in the boat. He said that several spots of fish popped up during the fight but if he hadn’t have checked those terns he’d have driven right past them.