The offshore bite was bound to peter out at some point and except for some small bluefin that are biting out at the Cortes Bank it pretty much has.
The big bluefin that went missing from the bank a couple of weeks ago made brief appearances at San Clemente Island, along the local banks off San Diego, and most recently as far as 100-miles south of Point Loma. Where will they turn up next? Your guess is as good as mine, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the smaller grade fish stuck around through the New Year as they’ve done the past three seasons.
Speaking of bluefin, the water between San Clemente Island and the 14 Mile Bank was Clean and warm enough (62.5 degrees) on Friday that I kept my eye open for them on the way home from fishing the island. While we didn’t see any tuna, the bass fishing at the island was good in some spots and bad in others. The Santa Ana winds had blown hard all night on Thursday and were still blowing 15 plus as we left Newport Harbor at dawn, which made for an interesting ride the first 20 miles. The ride eventually laid down but there was more wind blowing up against the front side of the island and the calicos had the bait pushed up tight to the shoreline. It was a fish a cast at times on 7-inch MC Weedless swimbaits cast into inches of water but once the wind backed off the bite did as well.
We spent the rest of the morning struggling to find cooperative fish, which held true to the normal full moon calico pattern of good fishing early and tough fishing the rest of the day.
This week’s Navionics chart tells a much different story than the ones we’ve been looking at over the last few months. Other than the bluefin out at the banks, the only other exciting action is the small yellows at San Clemente Island, the bigger but less likely to bite yellows at Santa Barbara Island, deep-drop swordfish off San Diego, and small kelp paddy fish 100 plus miles below the border. The good news is that the rockfish bite has been pretty good in several different areas and the winds should back off enough this weekend to allow you to fish most areas.
If you’re planning on heading out and targeting rockfish on your own boat, you should take a moment to watch this video showing how to use Navionics Relief Shading to find rockfish spots. The new feature is available on the Navionics Platinum Plus Card (644P+) but you’ll need to have a newer plotter to use it. If your unit isn’t compatible you can also use it on the Navionics boating app.
I used it on a trip that Matt Kotch and I made to Santa Rosa last weekend and our first stop was on a big piece of structure that I’d driven right by in the past because I didn’t know it was there. My first drop with the MC Slug didn’t even make it to the bottom before getting eaten by a 6-pound red. Matt was bit moments later and we knocked out limits of 4 to 8-pound reds in less than an hour.
While I doubt it will ever be that easy again, it’s pretty darned cool to pull up to the island and know the exact location of every piece of structure around it.
If you’re heading out in search of rockfish this weekend, I’d recommend a trip to one of the northern Channel Islands. If you’re a sport boat fisherman and don’t mind a long boat ride, I’d recommend jumping on a trip to San Nic. If you want bluefin, you’re going to need to pick at least a 1 1/2-day trip and prepare yourself emotionally for much smaller fish than we’ve been seeing all year. If you’re a bass guy you can run to San Clemente, which I might do on Saturday if I don’t get sucked into box canyon by making a trip to the Dirt Clod. If you don’t feel like making a long run, the Saltwater Bass Series is running a charity bass tournament in Newport Harbor on Sunday and you can get the details here. Wherever you decide to fish this weekend I hope you have fun!