In yet another strange twist in the unpredictable story line that the last two years of fishing have been, this week’s tuna hot spot is the rockfish grounds off San Clemente Island. Desperation Reef, which spends most seasons playing the role of fall back rockfish spot with the occasional side of yellows has become the go to destination for boats from Long Beach to San Diego. With upwards of fifty boats a day getting good scores on quality bluefin and yellowfin, the volume of fish in the zone is really amazing.
The Thunderbird out of Davey’s Locker has been on the fish since they first arrived and although they’ve been catching good numbers Captain Jeff Markland has reported suffering heavy losses every day. The tuna, which have been ranging from school size to 100-plus pound bruisers, have been ruining anglers who are hooking them on the wrong gear from an anchored boat. On Thursday morning, Markland reported going 2 for 12 on their first school with losses due to bite offs and anglers getting spooled on lighter tackle.
Take the right tackle to succeed.
If you’re going out on an overnight boat or multi-day trip this weekend, you’re going to need some appropriate tackle to handle these bigger fish. 40# test would be the absolute lightest I’d recommend fishing and having a two speed reel is a must.
There are also some big fish being caught by the San Diego 3/4-day fleet. While most of the fish they’ve been catching have been school sized yellowfin, there are some bigger bluefin around. After Wednesday’s trip on the San Diego out of Seaforth Landing, Captain Ryan Bostian reported, “Our 18 passengers caught six bluefin tuna from 70-110-pounds. We landed about a third of what we hooked. All you need is a 20-pound rod for smaller yellowfin. A 50-pound bait Rod with 3/0 circle hooks and a couple 4-ounce torpedo sinkers for big fish, and a 60-pound rod to fish a Flat Fall.”
In both areas, the bigger bluefin have been biting deeper in the water column and attaching a torpedo sinker to your line with a rubber band is a good way to get your bait down deep without adding a second knot to your line. The less knots in your line, the less chance that one of them will break. If you’re planning to fish a Flat Fall jig for these bigger fish, I’d recommend using some 130-pound fluorocarbon leader or single strand wire, for abrasion resistance. The big bluefin will often inhale the jig, so you want to use a leader that will hold up to their teeth rubbing against it during the fight. The same hold true for using a circle hook for these fish. While a J-hook will just lodge somewhere in the fishes mouth, the circle should slide to the corner before getting purchase and if everything works as planned, the line should not be anywhere near the tuna’s teeth.
There are some tuna scattered around up and down the coast, but getting them to bite takes being at the right place at the right time. Last Thursday I got a call from Captain Jimmy Decker saying that he’d found some better grade yellowfin late in the day off the east end of Catalina Island, but lost the only ones he hooked. I went out there and spent the day looking around on Friday but never saw a fish. The next day, BD member Jonathon “Flyliner” fished the same zone had the fish come up and plunked away at them all day long. I’ll admit that Jonathon is a much better tuna fisherman that I am, but in this case, timing had everything to do with it. There are very few needles in the giant haystack that is the ocean right now and it’s going to take luck to find one of your own.
In other non-tuna related news, the yellowtail are still biting at most islands but the bite has become a little more hit and miss. My friend Chris Oakes did a lap of Catalina Island on Saturday and reported seeing absolutely nothing until he found one bird school off the west end backside that resulted in him going 3 for 4 on big yellows on the surface iron. After the fish he didn’t catch went down, he returned to seeing absolutely nothing. There are still some yellowtail biting at San Clemente Island, but if you’re going to make that run you’d be silly not to just fish the big tuna that are biting a mile off the island. The yellowtail are still biting well for boats fishing the Channel Islands and other than the hot bite zones jumping around from time to time, the bite is the same as it’s been up there the last couple weeks.