Yellowfin Show Up Late But Hungry

Just as it seemed that the offshore season was beginning to wind down for San Diego boats, the yellowfin tuna showed up en masse and biting. Boats fishing the inner banks below San Diego this week found good fishing for yellowfin, skipjack and even bluefin tuna. At it’s peak earlier this week, several boats posted limits of quality yellowfin on their full day trips.

According to reports, while the schools weren’t always easy to locate, once found, the fish were readily biting the heavy line and captains suggest bringing 40 and 50 pound test for when the bite is on. Private boaters looking to get in on this action can locate schools by trolling cedar plugs through fishy looking areas.

By “fishy looking areas” I mean areas that are showing enough signs of life that there’s a good chance there will be tuna around.

Too many guys make the mistake of getting to whatever starting spot they’ve decided on, putting in the jigs and trolling blindly all day. While this may sometimes result in getting lucky, it’s an extremely low percentage play.

If I were going tuna fishing this weekend, I’d plot a course that would allow me to check multiple banks, starting with those closest to the harbor because there’s no reason to drive farther than needed to find fish. Upon arriving at the edge of each bank, I will stop the boat and glass 360-degrees around the boat before proceeding up onto the bank. If you drive right up to the middle of the bank, you’re going to miss anything that happens off it’s edge. If I don’t see anything, I’ll cruise across the length of the bank while looking and glassing. You can do this at 15-20 MPH if its calm. Once I reach the other edge of the bank, I’ll stop and glass 360-degrees again. While I’m glassing, I’m looking for birds, bait, dolphins and whales. If I see any of those, I’ll run over and check them out. While I’m driving I’m watching my electronics for bait balls, tuna marks and temperature changes. If I’m seeing signal, I’ll stop and troll, but if I don’t see anything I’m blasting over to the next bank.

Also, when you do stop and troll, don’t just troll in a straight line or you’re going to quickly troll out of the fishy looking area. Try boxing the zone or following the contour lines on whichever bank your fishing. I understand that this takes a lot more effort than following the sport boats around but the satisfaction of finding your own fish is a great reward. One last thing, if you see dolphins, you don’t need to troll through them to see if they’ve got fish on them. I’ll usually just drive my boat ahead of them, stop and let them swim by me. If they’ve got tuna on them, they’ll show up on the meter. If there are tuna with them, you can just put the jigs in and get back in front of them.

In other news, the bluefin are still biting at the Cortez and Tanner Banks. The big fish are still only being caught at night or on flying fish but the smaller bluefin have been biting well on fly-lined sardines. The weather looks pretty good for this zone over the weekend, so if you want to catch bluefin, you should get on a trip. San Clemente Island has gotten very little fishing coverage over the last few weeks because most boats are fishing tuna. That being said, the bass bite over there has been good and there are some yellows to be caught along the front side of the island. There are also some big yellows biting at Catalina Island, but the bite is far from wide open.

The boats up north have switched mainly into rockfish mode and the fishing has been good. The weather looks good around the Channel Islands over the weekend and through next week. We are just getting into my favorite time of year to fish up there, so I’m going to be heading up there soon. Anyway, that’s about it for the week. I’ll be out fishing the War Heroes on the Water tournament and I wish you the best of luck wherever it is that you’re fishing!

Erik Landesfeind
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...