Oil Spill Closes Coast but Offshore Action Continues

It’s been a weird week on the water in Southern California, during which anglers had to contend with lightning storms, oil spills, locked down harbors and coastal fishing closures (Fishery Closure Information). I think that this may be the first time in Southern California that boats from multiple harbors found themselves without a dock to return to. Unfortunately, that was the case for many of the boats that fished this week’s War Heroes on the Water tournament, where Monday night left boaters dodging lightning bolts while scrambling to find a slip in an open harbor. Luckily, all of the veterans fishing the tournament made it safely back to their hotel and thanks to the networking of boat owners, not a single boat was left without somewhere to tie up and wait for Newport and Dana Point harbors to reopen.

The WHOW tournament ended up being a huge success and hosted over 100 wounded veterans while raising over 1.3 million dollars for charity.

The format of the tournament allowed boats to fish wherever they’d like on Sunday and Monday and gave points based on not only the size of the fish caught, but the number of species captured. With some of the best captains on the coast running the boats, these guys covered every fishing location and species currently biting in Southern California. Before I get into the details of what’s biting, I’d like to say thank you to all of the boat owners that participated in the event and thank you to all of the veteran’s and the sacrifices they made for our country. All of the photos in this column are from boats that fished the tournament.

Starting offshore, the tuna bite at Tanner and Cortes Banks was great this week with many big fish being caught on flying fish and spreader bars. The night bite also continues to produce and the boats that were out there on Monday night got to enjoy a pretty incredible lighting show while they pulled on tuna. There are also quite a few smaller bluefin, as well as big bonito, biting fly-lined sardines during the day. While there is some serious wind forecast for that zone this weekend, it backs off again early next week and I doubt that it will have a negative impact on the fishing once it lays back down.

The boats that fished the shallow water rockfish at Cortes Bank scored lots of nice reds, as did the boats that made the run to San Nic. My friend Jonathon Medrano wasn’t fishing the tournament but made the run to Santa Barbara Island on his boat Sunday and reported excellent fishing for shallow water reds there as well. The rockfish bite up at the Channel Islands continues to be good and we had surprisingly good fishing for reds at San Clemente Island as well.

The bass bite at San Clemente wasn’t wide open this week but there were plenty of bites to be had on both weedless swimbaits and Gulp! Jerk Shads. There are also some yellowtail biting at the island, with smaller fish being caught on the frontside and larger fish being hooked and mostly lost on the backside. We hooked a 30-pound class fish on a spinning rod and 20-pound test there on Sunday and never even slowed it down. The bad news is that the fish weren’t willing to bite heavier line and once the seals got on us they were more than happy to eat every bait, regardless of what pound test we were using.

The bad news for anglers fishing the coast is that everything from Huntington Harbor to San Clemente and out 6 miles is completely closed to fishing. The only silver lining to that cloud is that there’s no nearly as much oil around as the giant closure would indicate so I’m hoping things will open back up soon and the fishing won’t have been impacted. The weather this weekend looks a little breezy anywhere past Catalina Island, so it may be a good weekend to get some boat work done or fishing along the coast somewhere beside the closed area. Good luck if you’re heading out!

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...