What had been a steady and predictable tuna bite became anything but that as we came off the August full moon. Starting with big bluefin, the fish that had been riding the Clemente Ridge and biting off the backside of the island for the last month disappeared without a trace. While this sucks for the guys who had big tuna plans the last couple weeks, their disappearance isn’t all that surprising as they’d done the same thing at some point each of the last few years. My guess is that the bait they were on slid up to the northwest and they followed. The fish might have only moved a short distance but once they get off the island or away from the banks it gets almost impossible to find them because the search grid gets exponentially larger. The good news is that when they did this the last few years they weren’t gone long, so I’m hoping they’ll be back and happily eating your frozen flying fish by the new moon.
The smaller bluefin that had been biting between the Corner and the 289 also went MIA at the end of last week and by Sunday boats were searching far and wide trying to relocate them. On Sunday morning I saw a couple of San Diego overnight boats looking for tuna less than ten miles off the beach in Dana Point. While neither of those boats were lucky enough to find tuna, the Thunderbird out of Davey’s Locker was lucky enough to locate them on the front side of San Clemente Island. The morning started out with yellowtail fishing that was interrupted with a yellowfin tuna caught while fishing on the anchor. The boat slid off the island later that morning and found the bluefin up and feeding. They ended up catching 24 of the 30-pound class bluefin before the private boaters found them and the gang bang ensued. On the same day, the Pursuit out of 22nd Street Landing also caught a yellowfin tuna while fishing on the anchor at Catalina.
Private boaters fishing off the west end of Catalina caught a few bluefin on Sunday and by Monday those fish were up foaming and biting wide open. Over the next couple of days sport boats from Ventura to San Diego were all fishing the tuna on the backside of Catalina. With long range boats fishing side by side with the 7 o’clock 3/4-day boats out of Pedro that close to the island, it was sure to attract enough private boaters to turn into a complete mess. I’ve heard plenty of stories of bad behavior that came out of this 100+ boat gang bang but the best one yet came from an unidentified sport boat who shared this photo along with the comment that the private boater pulled up so close to their stern that when he cast a sardine it hit one of the sport boat passengers in the head.
My advice to private boaters looking to catch a tuna this weekend is to drive as far away from that mess as possible, there are enough scattered fish around that you’ve got a good chance at finding your own fish. If I were going, I’d look at the inner banks off Orange County. I fished bass at Catalina Island on Saturday and found some breaking yellowfin on the inside edge of the Avalon Bank on my way home. The fish didn’t look particularly cooperative and we were quickly approaching cocktail hour, so we didn’t stick around to see if they’d bite. There were more yellowfin seen on Saturday, some as close as three-miles off the beach. I went marlin fishing on Saturday and saw another spot of yellowfin pop up inside the 14 Mile Bank. While neither of those spots of fish came up and bit, I’d much rather not catch tuna by myself than catch tuna while getting hit in the head by some idiot casting a sardine.
This week’s Navionics Chart tells a short but pretty accurate story of what’s happening. Starting up north, it’s mostly rockfish for the boats fishing the Channel Islands. The fishing in the Santa Monica Bay continues to be horrible but there are some calicos biting along Palos Verdes. Not that anyone is fishing them anymore but the yellowtail are biting on the backside of Catalina and the front side of Clemente. There were a few marlin caught along the front side of Catalina this week but I wouldn’t call it good fishing. The bluefin gang bang is in full effect off Cat Canyon and there are probably fish to be caught off the dirt clod as well. There is a massive amount of bait all over the inner banks and it extends down to San Diego where the yellowfin are being seen but aren’t biting.
I’m not sure where I’m going to fish this weekend, but the weather looks pretty crappy on Saturday, so I’m either going to stay home that day or fish the coast. On Sunday it’s probably going to be a Clemente run targeting calicos and yellows with an eye kept peeled for tuna or kelp paddies on the way there and back. Good luck wherever you’re fishing this weekend!