It’s been another great week of fishing for anglers across Southern California and it seems like everything is biting. The boats fishing the Channel Islands are slaying the bass and getting occasional big scores on halibut.
Meanwhile, the boats fishing the Dirt Clod were loading up on big seabass and the bruiser yellows were busting tackle at San Clemente Island. Along the coast, the barracuda and bass are biting as well as they have in the last few years and anywhere you look between Catalina and the border, you’ve got a shot at finding foamers of bluefin tuna.
With so much happening, it’s hard for sport boat anglers to do wrong when choosing a trip, so this week I’m going to focus on helping out the private boaters that are planning to head offshore this weekend. As you all already know, the main bite zones have been a zoo and the fish are biting right through the traffic but these monumental gang bangs usually result in bad manners and frustrating fishing. So, with the tuna spread out in every direction, there’s no reason to compete with other boats for heavily pressured fish. With that, I’d like to share some tips that have helped me find fish on my recent trips offshore.
The first step in any successful trip is to come up with a game plan regarding where you’re going to run. That means having a starting destination in mind instead of just following the boats out to where the other guys are catching them. For example, if I’m leaving out of Newport Harbor, my first destination might be the 277, which will allow me to cross the edge of the 14 Mile Bank on my way there. As soon as I get off the coastal shelf, I’m actively looking for fish, which entails checking the water temperature every few minutes to see if I ran over any breaks.
You won’t necessarily see fish once you hit a temp break but if you’re seeing signs of fish and then cross into warmer or colder water you can rule out any water outside of the temperature where you’re seeing the fish. That being said, if you don’t know what the temperature was a mile back, whatever it is when you see your first fish is meaningless. Speaking of seeing your first fish, you need to be looking somewhere other than straight ahead when you’re running to your spot. When we are headed out we’ll usually have two people at the helm with one looking 30 to 45-degrees to port and the other starboard. In the mornings you aren’t looking for foamers but signs like birds, bait, whales, or breezing fish.
Jimmy Decker, Matt Kotch, and I ran to Clemente to fish a bass tournament last Saturday and on our way across spotted a breezer of bluefin tuna shining in the swell. The fish were obviously not in a feeding mode, so we continued on to the island to fish bass. At around 9:00 a.m. we decided to get off the island and fish tuna so we ran back to where we’d seen the fish several hours earlier. As is usually the case, the fish weren’t there when we got back but we knew that they were likely still somewhere between there and the island because we’d crossed a temp break right before we saw them in the morning. With that direction crossed off the list, we were left with three directions to look. Since we hadn’t seen any signs of life between the island and the spot on our way back to it we were able to rule out that direction as well. With only two directions to look, we ran west assuming that was the most likely direction of travel. After a couple of miles of not seeing anything, we bent it down east and found a whale a couple of miles below where we’d seen the fish in the morning. The whale was a good sign, so we stopped the boat to glass around and had a spot of bluefin pop up a hundred yards away. We ended up going five for seven over the next hour and didn’t have to compete with a single boat.
This thought process has worked for me trip after trip since these bluefin first showed up and will work for you as well if you’re willing to dedicate your time to really looking for fish and interpreting what you’re seeing instead of getting distracted by the other boats fishing the area. Speaking of other boats, if you see one pull up on a foamer, don’t just run over and jump their fish. You’d be much better off glassing around and looking for a foamer of your own a good distance from the boat that’s stopped. When these fish have been popping up, it seems like they pop up everywhere, so there’s no reason to lessen your chances of getting bit by competing with other boats. That’s about it for this week. Good luck if you’re heading out!