Like many other areas across the country, fall along the California coast is a transitional season. Instead of cooler days and shades of gold and red on the trees, offshore anglers in Southern California look forward to some of the best weather of the year.
It may not be light winds and sunny skies every day, but overall autumn typically brings California anglers lighter winds, warm waters, and the opportunity to fish distant spots such as the Cortes and Tanner Banks that may be blown out much of the rest of the year.
The reason for October’s great weather has to do with the prevailing weather pattern in the summer months vs. the winter and how that pattern is affected when we make that transition between the two.
During the late spring and summer months, a semi-permanent area of high pressure (the North Pacific High) takes up residence about 500 to 1,000 miles off the northern California coast. Around the edge of this high-pressure center, wind circulates in a clockwise fashion, producing that familiar northwesterly wind along the West Coast.
That wind is also a big reason the water along the coast is relatively chilly, even during the warm summer months. Upwellings occur when wind effectively blows the top layer of water away and it’s replaced by cooler, nutrient-rich water from the depths below.
The transition begins in September and October as significant temperature differences in the northern latitudes energize the jet stream and large storms begin developing in the Gulf of Alaska. This shift usually results in a much weaker North Pacific High or even a strengthening area of higher atmospheric pressure over the western U.S.
This change results in a light pressure gradient (difference in air pressure over distance) or the beginnings of California’s Santa Ana wind season.
With the warm water already in place, a solid bite and fading traffic on the water, October may be the perfect time to jump on a boat and take part in what can be the best fishing and weather of year to be on the water.
As always, check the latest forecast before heading out because these examples are generalizations of a typical pattern and every day is different!