With bluefin spread from the Channel Islands to below the Mexican border, finding fish to target is easy enough right now that I’m going to forego breaking down this week’s bite zones and instead focus on the different tuna fishing options available to anglers.
If you don’t have your own boat and are looking to fish bluefin on a budget, the options are somewhat less limited than they were in recent weeks. The fish that had been biting just a few miles from San Diego have slid up and out, making a full day trip out of San Diego very much less than a sure thing. In fact, you’ve got a better chance of catching some nice kelp paddy yellowtail on those trips than you do bluefin right now.
Your best party boat option right now is an overnight or multi-day trip which will give you an opportunity to get in on the night bite, which will be your best shot at catching a trophy fish. While the overnight trips are scoring fish in the dark, depending on how far they have to run to get to those fish will dictate how much nighttime fishing they’ll get done. If I were looking to take a sport boat trip, I’d go on a two day which would allow for a full night of fishing. The only drawback of this type of trip is that there’s a good shot that the two daytime periods that bookend the night bite will likely be pretty slow right now as the tuna aren’t biting well for sport boats during the day right now.
If you’re willing to spend some more money, to the tune of $700 to $1000 per person you can charter a smaller boat that will allow you to sleep in your own bed the night before, get out to the zone very quickly and give you an excellent chance of catching fish. But before you book one of those trips, you should make sure that the boat’s fishing style matches your interest. For example, while catching a 200-pound bluefin sounds like fun to me, sitting around in the cockpit waiting to reel in a tuna that ate a trolled flying fish is not my idea of a good time. That being the case, I’d definitely book a captain who focuses on casting lures to fish. While the fish will likely be smaller, the experience would be much more enjoyable. On a side note, since you’re going to be spending a lot of money on one of these trips, look for the guide that’s the best at whatever style of fishing you like to do instead of trying to save a few bucks and booking a less successful captain.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some private boater fishing options. Option number one, which it seems like most guys choose these days is to pull up into the fleet of sport boats and joining in on the gang bang on fish that aren’t biting all that well during the day anyway. If you do decide to fish in the fleet, I’d recommend refraining from trolling your flying fish or cedar plug through the middle of the other boats because that’s not only a low percentage play, but general bad behavior. Instead, I’d drift and fish live bait on with a small circle hook and a light fluorocarbon leader. While you’re probably going to lose anything big you hook, if you fish heavy line in these situations you’re not going to catch anything. Kind of a lose / lose situation overall in my eyes. If I were you, I’d just avoid doing this.
My recommendation to any private boater would be to drive away from the fleet and look for an area that you can have to yourself or only have to share with a couple other boats. While this may seem impossible based on the amount of boats stacked on top of the zone the sport boats are fishing, all you need to do is drive five miles away from there and you’re likely to be on your own. As I’ve suggested many times before, look at the topography and the conditions in the area that the fleet is fishing and then look for similar topography and conditions in an area they’re not. With as much fish as we have in our local waters right now, there will likely be bluefin there too.
Wherever you’re fishing, if you find bluefin that are foaming on micro anchovies and will not respond to a lure, I highly recommend just driving away from that zone and looking for fish that are feeding on larger bait because you’re not going to catch one. I experienced that first hand on Friday morning when Matt Kotch and I found our first foamer, pulled up, and made multiple casts into it without the fish even noticing that we were winding our lures right over their backs. We spent the next few hours throwing everything we had in the box at them and never even got a single fish to look at a bait in the 30 or 40 foamers we fished. I finally left the zone out of frustration and found another foamer a few miles away that was feeding on larger bait. We ended up going three for four on nice bluefin in the next half hour and left them biting because we already had way too much fish to process. Just some food for thought. Good luck if you’re fishing this weekend!