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Cortes Bank Fall Bluefin Bite Continues

fall bluefinIt’s been another unprecedented week of fall bluefin fishing in Southern California as the tuna have taken up residence at Cortes Bank and according to a report by Captain Jeff Markland of the Thunderbird are eating everything in sight. In an Instagram post he shared a photo of a bait net full of short belly rockfish with the description, “Rolled up to a spot of puddlers and birds. Saw 50 to 200-pounders rolling around on a huge spot of small rockfish. What a great time to be alive.”

While not as interesting, other captains had exciting fishing to report. On Monday, Captain Greg Gawitt aboard the Aztec had this to say, “This has been hands down one of the best days of bluefin fishing! We have 70+ BFT. From 45-pounds – just shy of 300-pounds. With a bulk of the fish in the 60-pound range. There was also a 50-pound yellowfin and a 100-pounder.” On Tuesday the Pacific Queen‘s office staff reported, “The guys arrived home this morning with a massive load of bluefin tuna. They ended up with limits of 40-70-pound fish as well as 8 over 200-pounds and 5 over 100-pounds. They were biting! What’s happening right now is incredible and if you can find the opportunity to get out there you should.”

fall bluefinWith good scores on this grade of fish you know that they are going through a lot of bites to get there. On Wednesday, the captain of the Tribute reported just how tough it can be, “Awesome action on jumbo bluefin yesterday morning, but unfortunately the majority found their freedom. We went 3 for 16 on the big ones, all hooked on flylined bait with most hooked on 80# and 100#test. The three big ones weighed in at 172, 198 and 220. We also caught were 19 more bluefin from 40-80-pounds and 11 yellowfin from 40-76-pounds for our 22 Angler’s.”

With these fish being located at least 100-miles from the nearest landing, you’ll need to take at least a 1 1/2-day trip to get a shot at them. Some of the boats are running 1.75-day trips to get a little more fishing time but you wouldn’t go wrong by getting on a longer trip if you can find one as it will give you more fishing time. The photo at the top of this article is from a recent 8-day trip aboard the Independence that spent a couple days on the bank after fishing Mexican waters. These fish are being caught on sardines, mackerel and live squid during the day and some of the big ones are being caught on flat falls in the dark so you’re going to want to bring a heavy 2-speed set up with a minimum of 80# test if you’re heading out. I’d also bring some 40# to 60# tackle in case the fish get picky on the day you go.

This week’s Navionics Chart tells the story that, other than the bluefin bite, there isn’t much story to tell. The good news is that Thursday and Friday’s Santa Ana winds should make for calm waters throughout the bight this weekend. Starting up north, rockfish continues to be the main attraction along the coast and at the Channel Islands. There is some squid at Santa Cruz Island though so I wouldn’t be surprised if some yellowtail showed up in the counts this weekend. It’s getting to be the time of year when overnight boats start making the long run to San Nic to fish rockfish and as is usually the case, they’ll probably be biting.

A friend who asked to remain nameless (likely out of shame) made the mistake of running to the dirt clod on Sunday and reported good bass fishing in the few casts it took for the sea lions to descend upon the spot like locust. Their blood lust stoked, the sea lions ate what bass they could catch before attempting to feed directly on the Daiwa SP Minnow my friend had been casting. After losing the last of his lures to the aquatic vermin, he resorted to catching whitefish which he described as large, but sullen and not really worth the long run.

Cortes Bank Fall Bluefin BiteSpeaking about not really worth the run, I fished Catalina Island on Saturday and it again lived up to its reputation of being the Tragic Pile. Conditions looked good on the west end, front side but didn’t really bite all that well. They looked even better on the back side but really didn’t bite at all. I’m not sure what needs to change at the island to get the bass biting better but I’d guess that 40-foot water visibility isn’t helping.

There haven’t been many reports coming out of Clemente lately. The bass guys fishing the island have been saying it’s been slow overall. The few boats fishing the front side have been scoring some yellows but it hasn’t been getting much coverage. If you’re thinking of making the run, I’d bet that a scoop or two of live squid would really help the cause when it comes to yellowtail fishing. As for me, I’ll be making the run to the island without squid on Saturday as I’ll be fishing bass, while probably contemplating the possibility of running the extra 50 miles to catch a tuna at Cortes. I’ll have to remember to ask Decker to bring a couple fuel jugs just in case.

Cortes Bank Fall Bluefin BiteThe bonito are still biting in the Santa Monica Bay, the yellowfin are still sort of biting way the hell down the line off Ensenada and there are some yellowtail being caught at the Coronado Islands again. The fish in this picture came aboard the San Diego out of Seaforth Landing this week. The boats have been having trouble getting off the dock during the week despite the biting fish, so I recommend taking a weekday off and heading out. You’ll likely have a fun day with a light load and I’m sure the boat crews will appreciate making a little more income before things wind down for the year.

See much more from Erik Landesfeind on BD.

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Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California and Mexican waters. Erik is also an active freelance writer and the author of the weekly column So Cal Scene, which BD publishes every Friday. In So Cal Scene, Erik keeps all of the BD readers up to date on what's biting in Southern California. Erik divides his fishing time on local boats, long-range trips and Mexico excursions. For the past eight years, Erik has been competing in the SWBA (Saltwater Bass Anglers) tournament series and has multiple tournament victories to his credit. His sponsors include Batson Enterprises / Rainshadow Rods, Robalo Boats, Tilly's Marine, Abu/Garcia, Penn Reels, Navionics, Raymarine, MC Swimbaits, Uni-Butter Fishing Scent and Bladerunner Tackle.