Big Bluefin Highlight A Great Week Of SoCal Fishing

Big bluefin

There have definitely been quite a few “fishing firsts” logged over the last few years but something occurred this week that prior to 2015, no one ever would have imagined possible; 200-pound tuna being caught on ¾-day open party trips. While there have only been three to date, a 217.5-pound fish caught aboard the San Diego out of Seaforth Landing, and a massive 249-pounder along with a 223-aboard the Liberty out of Fisherman’s Landing, plenty more are being seen and hooked.

The coolest part about these catches is that the bites aren’t coming while trolling a kite, flying a helium balloon or any of the other un-fun fishing styles that allow the crew to have all the fun while the anglers are relegated to being handed an already bent rod and a whole lot of work ahead of them. These fish are being caught on fly-lined baits, sinker rigs and flat falls and while the counts don’t reflect it, if the fish bite, anybody that knows how to properly present a sardine can have multiple shots at big fish in a single day.

Big bluefin

As I’ve been reporting the last few weeks, having the right gear is of the utmost importance if you want a shot at actually landing one of these fish instead of going home with a story about the one that got away. Both Seaforth and Fisherman’s Landing have high quality rental gear available. If you are at all in doubt about whether your tackle is up to the task, I’d just rent the right gear at the landing. The margin of error between success and failure is so thin on these trips that a single fish hooked on the wrong gear and fought too long can cost the entire boat load of anglers an opportunity to catch fish of their own.

With the big bluefin covered, let’s take a look at this week’s Navionics Chart to see what else is biting in Southern California. Starting up north, the seabass bit pretty well for boats fishing Santa Cruz Island. These fish are scattered around the backside of the island and are feeding on red crabs so the hot ticket continues to be casting red tube baits or swimbaits into areas of feeding fish. The trick when fishing these baits is to make a long cast and let the bait sink to the bottom on a slack line. If you don’t get bit on the sink, just wind it up and make another cast.

The Aloha Spirit had limits of seabass on Tuesday’s trip but the bite was hit and miss later in the week.  The good news is that there are plenty of other good fishing options on the days when the seabass decide not to bite.

I got a report from Captain Nick Tharp who fished shallow water rockfish over the weekend. He caught easy limits of reds, chuckleheads, lots of big whitefish, a couple dozen calico bass and a pair of 20-pound sheephead, like this one caught by Noah Odama, Head of R&D for Daiwa. In Tharp’s words, “Had the boat set up 30-feet off the rocks, spot locked with my trolling motor for two and a half hours and it was WFO the entire time.”  

The yellowtail are biting at both Catalina and San Clemente Islands, but the best action has been coming from the closer of the two. The bite at both islands is current dependent, which makes for hit and miss fishing but when the conditions are right the fishing can be pretty darned amazing. The Enterprise out of Pierpoint Landing had the biggest score this week on Wednesday when they tallied 112 yellows for their 40 passengers. When the fish are in a cooperative mood they will readily bite the surface iron, so make sure and bring your jig stick if you’re heading out.

There have also been a few bluefin caught around San Clemente Island this week and I’d imagine that there are likely more to be found somewhere along the San Clemente Ridge if anyone gets around to looking for them. I also got a report of very warm and very clean water inside of San Clemente Island which bodes well for fish moving in between the islands as well. I’m going to predict that someone is going to catch or at least see some more bluefin up this way in the next week as we approach the full moon on the 17th.

The calicos and sand bass are biting along most of the coast and conditons are improving rapidly. I fished the Newport Pipe on Saturday morning and had mediocre fishing in 63-degree dirty water, and then fished PV that afternoon for very slow fishing in 61-degree dirty water. I headed back up to PV on Wednesday afternoon and found that the conditions had completely straightened out. Warm and clean water and good downhill current had the calicos wide open in the kelp and the fish were biting weedless swimbaits and topwater baits.

Big bluefin

Finally, I got a report that the bluefin tuna are biting in San Quintin. My buddy Kelly Catain and his sons fished within cell phone range of town and ended up with four quality bluefin tuna on poppers. Stoked that my friends to the south are finally able to get in on some of the bluefin action, after missing out on it the last few years, but even happier to know that there are fish spread from US waters 180-miles down to San Quntin. If you’re looking for a fun adventure for about the cost of a 1 ½-day trip out of San Diego, I recommend grabbing a couple buddies and making the drive down to San Quintin to fish these bluefin from a skiff. I’m sure the boys at K&M Sportfishing would love to take you fishing.

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...