Spring has definitely sprung in Southern California as this week has seen the best fishing of the year. The run up to Friday night’s full moon brought us goof fishing for seabass up north, yellows down south and bluefin in our offshore waters. Before you get too excited, as is often the case, there will be some wind on the backside of the moon with Saturday and Sunday being windy at the outer islands. While the wind will not make for skiff friendly runs at the Channel Islands, the only places I see that might be out of play for sport boats are Santa Rosa and San Nic on Sunday. That being said, long term wind forecasts are often iffy at this time of year, so I’d keep a close eye on the weather before heading out.
With my weather disclaimer out of the way, let’s take a look at this week’s Navionics Chart for a breakdown on what’s biting and where. While there have been seabass caught in several different areas up north, the bigger scores are coming from boats fishing Santa Rosa Island. This bite has been the standard Channel Islands spring bite where boats are anchoring up and fishing squid on dropper loops or sliding sinker rigs for school sized fish. If the right school swims under the boat and decides to bite, it makes for easy limits. If the right school doesn’t swim under the boat, it makes for a long day. Definitely not my preferred style of fishing but if you want to catch a seabass right now this is your best opportunity to do so. The rockfish bite continues to be good at the Channel Islands and the calico bass are biting for the guys fishing them. Captain Larry Heron of Calico Hunter Charters fished Santa Cruz Island on Saturday and reported 80 plus bass along with a handful of seabass on swimbaits.
If you want a shot at a bigger seabass, like this 40-pounder caught by John Casey, while fishing with Brandon Vulgamott, you’re better off looking somewhere other than Santa Rosa. These fish have been biting sporadically at Catalina Island and along the coast. There are also some yellows biting at Catalina Island but the bite is inconsistent and the fish haven’t been very big. The most consistent surface action at the island has been on bonito but there are also some bass biting for the guys targeting them, other than that it’s all rockfish. There are also some bass biting at San Clemente Island but they aren’t getting much pressure. My friend James Little made a solo trip to the island on Saturday and reported good calico bass fishing with a side of yellowtail on the weedless swimbaits.
The yellowtail bite at the Coronado Islands continues to be the best game in town but even that is hit and miss at times. Boats had huge scores over the weekend, like the 221 fish caught by 50 anglers aboard the San Diego out of Seaforth Landing on Sunday, but the fishing slowed on Monday. The good news is that it appears that the bite has come roaring back as the San Diego reported 170 fish on Wednesday’s trip. These fish are 8 to 15-pounds, with most falling on the smaller end of that range, and are mixed with schools of big bonito. On the days the fish bite well, they will eat all presentations but on the slower days it sounds like the yo-yo iron is still the best producer. A technique that I’ve had good success with down there over the years when the fish are picky is to make a long cast with a surface iron and then sink it out (all the way to the bottom if the fish are deep) and retrieve it with an erratic stop and go retrieve in a medium to fast pace. Winding your jig at this angle allows it much more time in the bite zone and the surface iron swims a whole lot better than a yo-yo jig.
Finally, the bluefin bite has been good this week in the 70-90 mile zone south of San Diego. If you want to target these fish you’re going to need to do at least a 1 1/2-day trip because they’re on the outside edge of overnight range. While the boats are scoring limits of 20 to 60-pound fish, there are some bigger ones being hooked (and mostly lost) due to the fact that the fish are biting light line. It sounds like 30# fluorocarbon leader with a small hook has been the key to getting bit. While I haven’t been out on one of these trips, I’ve spent enough time fishing bluefin that are biting this way to know that they’ll bite heavier line if you know how to properly present a bait. If you’re inclined towards doing the tuna shuffle while soaking your bait for 30 minutes, I highly recommend fishing the lighter line and smaller hook. But if you can cast and a butt hooked sardine on heavier line (and know how to fish it properly), I’d recommend fishing 50 or 60# with a bigger hook. And if the boat is in a plunker bite during a long drift, I’d recommend fishing that butt hooked bait off the bow. That’s about it for this week. Hopefully Friday night’s full moon moves these tuna a little closer to home.