I noticed the first hints of fall’s arrival in Southern California on Sunday morning while heading to San Clemente Island. The first indication was the sky still being pitch black as we made our way out of Newport Harbor at 6:30 in the morning. This was followed by the realization that the board shorts and sweatshirt I’d donned for the trip were woefully inadequate during the crossing. Final confirmation came when the 69-degree water at the island felt warmer than the air temp all day long. What does all this mean?
It’s getting late enough in the year that I’m fairly certain we’ve already experienced the best fishing 2017 had to offer.
But don’t lose hope! The fish are biting as I sit here typing this up on Thursday morning and we’ve got calm winds in the forecast and a full moon on Saturday night. Not having spent much time pondering the potential effects of November’s appropriately called “Frost Moon” on the big bluefin tuna bite, I’m interested to see if the bite improves.
The Navionics App is calling for less than 10 knots of wind across the Southern California Bight all weekend but there is a 60% chance of rain on Sunday so you’ll want to plan accordingly if venturing out. Speaking of the Bight, Captain Wes Pierson put his Bight Sportfishing charter passengers on the monster bluefin at the top of this post on Sunday. The fish was quite an accomplishment considering the weather off the backside of San Clemente Island was quite rough that day. We attempted to run out and look around when I was out there on Sunday but the rough weather convinced us we’d be better off fishing calicos tight to the island and look for tuna on the way home. You can read the full report of my trip here.
While there are still a few giant tuna biting there are many more not so giant bluefin to be caught at the island as well. Earlier this week boats were scoring easy limits of mostly under 50-pound fish with some bigger ones in the mix. Once done on the bluefin boats were running to either San Clemente or Tanner Bank to fish yellows.
That bite went sideways in recent days as Naval maneuvers forced the close down of a huge section of water behind San Clemente Island that blocked out not only the tuna bite zone but kept boats from targeting yellows.The good news is that nothing major is scheduled for the weekend other than localized afternoon closures within 3 miles of the island, so boats should be able to get back on the fish. An interesting side note is that the Aztec out of Seaforth Landing reported 17 yellowfin from 50 to 75-pounds on Thursday morning, so there might be even more options. There are a few boats with openings available on trips this weekend so why not give it a shot? This late in the year there probably aren’t going to be that many shots left.
I’m going to be running back out to San Clemente on Saturday, this time dressed warmer, and fish bass in the morning then look around for tuna or marlin in the afternoon. There’s still quite a bit of life around the the ridge below the east end of Catalina with dolphin holding yellowfin. I spoke with Captain Gerry Mahieu this morning and he reported finding dolphin holding a huge school of yellowfin on Wednesday but the fish didn’t want to bite. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the full moon will get them in a feeding mood.
If you aren’t fishing, I suggest heading down to Fisherman’s Landing Tackle Day on Saturday. There will be lots of vendors with good deals on product and multiple fishing seminars, including a kite fishing seminar by BDer Billy Keleman. Billy has been one of the most consistent private boaters fishing these things the last couple years so I’m sure there will be tons of good info that will help you cut down your bluefin learning curve.